A Family Affair

(c) April 2012 by Charlotte Frost


A Sequel to Collage



Hutch rinsed his coffee cup in the sink and turned to see Starsky sitting at the kitchen table, a dreamy, far-away look on his face.  Starsky raised his cup to his lips and sipped slowly, and then lowered the cup to the table.

Starsky shifted and rested his chin in his hand, his eyes moving to Hutch.  "What do you think she's doing right now?"

It was all Hutch could do to not roll his eyes.  "Who?"  Though he knew.

Starsky straightened, his expression taking on offense.  "Darla."

Hutch leaned back against the counter.  With forced patience, he said, "Well, considering it's going on nine, I'd say she's probably had her gallop and is getting her bath."

"Do you think she's getting nervous?"

"About Thursday?" Hutch asked.  "Don't be ridiculous.  She can't possibly know she's being entered in a race three days from now."

Starsky shrugged.  "You never know.  Human beings can't know how horses think."

"Well, remember, Mike said that just because he's entering her this morning for Thursday, doesn't mean she's automatically going to run.  Other maidens that have already been trying to get into maiden races will have first priority, if too many horses are entered."

"Well, at least he seemed certain it would be sometime this week.  Just wish we knew for sure, so we could invite some people, like Huggy or Dobey."

"Mike will let us know, as soon as he knows anything definite."  Hutch was eager to change the subject and get his Monday going.  "I'm going to take our paperwork down to that one bank I talked to on the phone, and apply for a new mortgage.  Want to come?"

"Nah, remember that lady who wants us to check into the background of her daughter's new boyfriend is back today from being out of town.  So, I'll call her, and go see if she has time this morning to meet."

"Oh, right."  It felt good that their phone was ringing again, though the nightly newscasts continued to predict that the remainder of 1982 wasn't going to be any more economically sound than the first few months.  There were also more stories about the spreading AIDS disease.

Starsky gazed a Hutch a long moment.  "Did you shave this morning?"

Hutch rubbed along the brusque hairs of his upper lip.  "Yep.  As much as I wanted to.  I'm growing back the mustache.  I miss it."


Hutch shrugged.  "I think it gives me a more sophisticated, more mature look."

"I don't know why someone who is hitting forty next year would want to look more 'mature'."

"Don't you think it gives our clients more confidence in me?"

 "I don't know.  Maybe, if you don't let it get scruffy like it does sometimes."

Hutch couldn't help but grin.  "I've known the scruffiness to have interesting effects on your person."

Starsky also grinned, while looking away.  "I was talking about visual, not tactile."

Before Hutch could retort, Starsky's expression grew serious, and he said, "It's almost the end of June and, remember, we were going to try to visit your folks this summer.  I really want to do that."

Hutch knew how badly Starsky wanted to see where he'd grown up.  Starsky had written most of the chapters for his "not a real book" book concerning key events from their partnership, and now he was wanting to write chapters about the years before they'd known each other. 

Hutch said, "I'll call my parents when I get back from the bank, and see what their schedules are like."


Starsky did end up meeting with the client.  Afterward, he made a stop at the grocery store.  Upon returning home, he found Hutch sitting at the kitchen table with a notepad.

"Guess what?" Hutch said.

"What?"  Starsky put the grocery sack on the counter, and sat down.

"July 4th is on a Sunday this year.  My parents want to have a backyard barbeque if we come, and they'll invite however many relatives can get there on such short notice."

"So, like a family reunion?"

"Something like that.  There's quite a few family members that live within a few hundred miles.  They probably won't stay overnight."  Hutch's expression softened.  "I'm not sure if that's what you had in mind for a visit."

Starsky shrugged.  "I guess that'll work as well as anything, as long as I can get to see some photo albums and stuff.  When do you think we should leave?"

"How about if we leave Thursday of next week?  That'll give us all day Friday and Saturday before the big party.  Then we can maybe stay through Monday afternoon?"

"Yeah," Starsky nodded.  "That'll work."

"I've already called our travel agent to start researching flights."

"Great.  I don't suppose you've heard from Mike about Darla."

"No.  He must not have anything definite to report.  Remember, tomorrow is Tuesday, so he'll be calling us, anyway, for an update."

"Do your parents have a VCR?"

"I don't know.  Why?"

"Darla should have her first race by the time we fly out.  If we bring the video camera and tape it, it would be great to show everybody."

"I'll ask but, you know, maybe she won't run that great.  With twelve horses in a race, anything can happen."

Starsky decided there wouldn't be much point in suggesting that Hutch be more optimistic.

The house phone rang, and Hutch stood and reached for it.  "That's probably the travel agent."  He greeted, "Hello?"  After a moment, he said, "Oh, hi, Sue."

Sue Williams was the wife portion of the couple they bowled with on Tuesday nights.

"Oh, God, I'm sorry," Hutch said with emphatic sincerity.  He put his hand over the phone and said to Starsky, "Daryl's brother died this morning."

"Damn," Starsky said.  The husband's brother was a homosexual that had the AIDS disease.

Hutch said into the phone, "Was Daryl able to be with him in Michigan?"  Hutch listened for a few moments.  "That's good.  I'm glad he had that time with him."  A moment later, he asked, "So, you'll be flying back there?"

Hutch made a few more murmured comments as he listened a while longer, and then ended with, "Take care, and please give Daryl our sympathies."  He hung up and sat down at the kitchen table.  "They both flew back to Michigan when it looked like he was dying.  Then after a couple of days, Sue returned here, but now she's flying back for the funeral.  She says the family has been split apart, because some are sympathetic toward his brother, and others are angry that he 'chose' a homosexual lifestyle."

Starsky released a heavy breath.  "Man, our world is fucked up."

"Obviously, they won't be bowling with us tomorrow night."

Starsky was still contemplating the family situation.  "I thought that, by 1980, the world was supposed to either blow itself up, or else it was supposed to be a whole lot better place than in the past."

"Yeah," Hutch said with a sigh.  "Whatever progress homosexuality has made, this disease has set that progress back by decades."  He looked squarely at Starsky.  "I wouldn't expect all my family members to be as accepting as my parents have been about us."

"Yeah," Starsky said forlornly.  He decided, "I guess we'll just have to have our ultra thick skins in place to keep the peace." 

Hutch asked, "So, what happened with the client you saw this morning?"


Starsky and Hutch were both in the office working when their business phone rang at ten thirty on Tuesday.

Hutch hit the speaker button and greeted, "Starsky and Hutchinson."

"Hi, this is Mike."

"Hi, Mike, we have you on speaker phone."

Starsky chimed in, "Hi, Mike."

"She's in the fourth race on Thursday, in the number six post position."

"All right!" Starsky exclaimed, feeling his heart pound.  "That's great!"

"Yeah, her race was over-subscribed yesterday with fourteen entries, and she was on the also-eligible list, but three had scratched out by this morning, so she got in, and the field is finalized at eleven starters."

Hutch asked, "So, this is one of those maiden special weight races?"

"Yes.  Six furlongs.  It's restricted to Cal-bred fillies."

"Cal-breds?" Starsky asked.

"Yes, horses bred in California.  Those races generally aren't going to be as tough as open maiden races, where there can be expensive youngsters from Kentucky."

Hutch asked, "How do you think she'll do?"

"Look, fellas, all I can tell you is I've got her as ready as she can possibly be.  But most of the fillies in the race are first-time starters like she is, so anything can happen.  On Sunday, she got paddock trained, where we took her over to the paddock with the horses for the first race, and just let her stand in one of the saddling stalls, but without saddling her, and walked her around behind the other horses, so she had exposure to the crowd.  She was looking around like crazy, like she always does, but she stayed calm throughout."

Starsky wanted to burst with pride.  "So, she shouldn't embarrass us if we bring some friends to watch?"

"I can't promise anything, guys.  Once I put the jock in the saddle and the horses leave the paddock, it's out of my hands.  Like I said, if she loses, it won't be from lack of conditioning.  She's wound up tight and ready to do her job.  She's as mentally prepared as any youngster I've ever dealt with."

Hutch asked, "So, as owners, what do we do when we get there on Thursday?"

"Bring your licenses, and you can get into the grandstand for free.  After the third race is over, you can enter the paddock through the gate.  Have your licenses visible, because the gate will have a guard.  The horses for the fourth race will be brought over about twenty minutes before post time.   The saddling stalls all have numbers, so you can stand in front of the stall with number six.  But don't go in the stall with her when Blinks brings her over. Stay on the grassy area of the paddock.  After I saddle her, I'll come over to where you are, and the jockeys will come out."

"Who's riding her?" Hutch asked.

"Oh, I meant to mention that.  I decided to go with a young apprentice, Jack Jowlart.  He's showing a lot of promise.  She'll get to carry five pounds less than the other horses, to make up for his lack of experience.  I normally don't put an apprentice on a first time starter, but he blew her out last week, and seemed to get along with her just fine.  I admit it's a bit of a risk, but if she runs how I think she'll run, there shouldn't be a lot for him to do."

Starsky felt butterflies in his stomach, at that last bit of expressed confidence.  "Man, this going to be so cool."

"If she happens to win, you'll be in the official winner's circle photo, of course, along with anybody you bring with you.  As owners, you're expected to provide winner's circle photos for the trainer, jockey, and groom.  I think they cost eight dollars each.  Beyond that, you can order however many you want from the track photographer for yourselves.  Also, win or lose, you can order a video tape of the race from the video department."

"Okay, that's terrific," Starsky said.

"Yeah, after she's run a few times, you can have the video department put together a tape of all her races.  They're always willing to do custom projects like that, though I'm not sure how much they charge."

Starsky grinned at Hutch.  "That's so cool.  I'm sure we'll be doing that."

There was a pause, and then Mike asked, "You guys have any more questions for me?"

Hutch said, "Yeah.  How much purse money are we talking about?"

"The purse is $18,000.  The winner gets sixty percent, the second horse gets twenty percent, the third horse gets ten percent, and seven percent for the fourth horse, and the fifth horse gets three percent.  There's also some bonus money from the California breeders' fund, since she's a CAL-bred."

Starsky watched Hutch key in numbers on a calculator, and scribble some notes.

Mike added, "If she wins, both my cut and the jockey's cut is ten percent each of her share of the purse.  Otherwise, the jock gets fifty-five bucks for being second, forty-five for third, and thirty-five for being fourth or worse.  I also get ten percent of second and third place finishes."

Starsky hoped Hutch was keeping up with the numbers, because he wasn't.  "Hopefully, we'll all be a little bit richer after Thursday."

Mike chuckled.  "Yes, hopefully.  Oh, also, I don't know if you guys are betting men, but she's been talked up quite a bit, so it's likely her odds are going to be pretty low, but I doubt she'll be favored.  There's a horse in there that has run once before and was second.  So, that horse is likely to be the favorite."

"We're not in this to bet," Hutch said,.

"Maybe just sentimentally," Starsky quickly added.  He had every intention of showing his faith in their very own horse by betting on her.

After a pause, Mike asked, "Is that it?"

Hutch looked at Starsky, and said, "I think so, Mike.  Really appreciate it.  We'll be seeing you on Thursday."

As soon as Hutch switched off the phone, Starsky said, "It's going to be torture waiting for Thursday.  Man, this is the coolest thing."

Hutch grinned.  "Yeah, he sounded really confident in her chances."

"That'll be so cool if we get to stand in the winner's circle with her.  Who do you think we should call to see if they can go to the track with us?"


On Wednesday, Hutch walked into the house, carrying some large planters from the garage, stuffed with various sacks of fertilizer and other gardening supplies.

Starsky was sitting at the kitchen table with a piece of drawing paper.  "What's all this?" he asked.

"I'm putting more plants around the house," Hutch replied.  There was still a lot more stuff to bring in from the car.  "I miss them.  You have your writing and your horse."

"Our horse," Starsky insisted.

Hutch smiled slightly. "Whatever.  I've decided I'm going to get back into growing green things as a major hobby."

Starsky nodded while looking around the walls.  "I suppose the house can use some sprucing up.  After getting all the furniture, we haven't done much with the walls, so having plants around ought to be a nice touch."  He suddenly looked up at Hutch.  "Oh, Dobey called, and he's determined to take an extra long lunch to see Darla's race.  We're supposed to meet with him in the parking lot at Denny's at one.  That should get us there around the second race.  So, we shouldn't have to wait all that long for Darla's."

"Good.  I'm glad he can be there."  They'd invited Huggy, but he said Thursdays was when most of his suppliers made deliveries, and he needed to be at the Pits.  "He say anything about himself and Edith?"

"He's back at home, so that's good," Starsky said.  "Sounds like they're still working through their problems."  He suddenly brightened.  "Oh, hey, I told him we were bringing the video camera, and he said if we showed him how to work it, that he'd do all the filming, so we can just focus on Darla and the race."

Hutch grinned as he leaned on the back of the chair that was across from Starsky.  "That's sure sweet of him."

"Yeah.  Of course, he was wanting to know how much it was 'safe' to bet on her, and I just quoted what Mike had said.  It's not a sure thing, but he's real confident in her chances."

Hutch nodded.  Then, "What are you doing?"

Starsky indicated the sheet of paper.  "Studying your family tree that your mother made when your parents were out last year.  It'll help me remember everyone better when I meet them."

Hutch nodded, a lump in his throat, and turned to go back to the garage.  Starsky had asked -- practically demanded -- that Hutch's mother sketch out the family tree, because Starsky was so interested in Hutch's life.  In his past.  Where he'd come from.  And Starsky had been turned away at nearly every corner in trying to find such information from the people outside of Hutch himself.

As Hutch reached into the trunk of the LeBaron for more purchases from the plant store, he felt his eyes water.  Starsky loved him so much.  Was so passionate in his expression of that love.  Hutch hoped that when they went to Minnesota next week, that Starsky would finally find some of the answers he was looking for.

And then Hutch would no longer have a gray hole in the place where most people had fond memories of childhood.

Hutch paused.  He didn't want to go back into the kitchen with his eyes wet.

He turned and sat on the bumper, brushing at his eyes.

They watered some more.

He closed them, and tried to trace where this rush of feeling was coming from.

Hutch heard footsteps, and then the door to the house opened, and the overhead light came on.  "You need help?"

"Uh-uh," Hutch said, knowing it was too late to pretend that everything was fine.  Of course, trying to pretend anything at all was foolish.

Starsky moved around the side of the LeBaron, and then looked down at Hutch with his mouth open.  "What's wrong?"

Hutch managed a slight smile.  "Nothing.  Really."

Starsky didn't seem to hear.  "Hey, is there something going on with you, and I've been too busy with Darla and the book to notice?"

"God, no."  Hutch reached for Starsky then, drawing him close so he could rest his cheek against the flat stomach.  He wrapped his arms around Starsky's waist.

Hutch closed his eyes when he felt gentle fingers slowly furrow through his hair.  A thumb moved down and brushed across his eyelid.

"What's this?" Starsky asked.

"I don't know," Hutch answered honestly.  Then, "Nothing sad."

Starsky pulled away just enough to free himself to kneel in front of Hutch.  As their eyes met, he asked, "Does this have something to do with your family tree, or the trip next week?"

Hutch glanced away and swallowed thickly.  He decided to admit, "It still catches me off guard sometimes."

"What does?"

Hutch whispered, "That you care so damn much."  His throat closed, and he drew a heavy breath.

"Ah, babe," Starsky said, his thumb brushing along Hutch's cheek.  "It breaks my heart that you can still question if you deserve to be cared about as much as I care about you."

"I don't question --" Hutch began to protest, but his voice caught.  His pride bristled against the idea that he could truly be so pathetic.  According to Starsky's book, he stopped questioning if he was worth it after the heroin thing.  That sounded right.  But....

"Please look at me, Hutch."

Hutch did, and decided there was another topic that he was much more certain of.  "Buddy?"

Starsky gazed back at him.  "What?"

"I want us to get tested for that AIDS disease."

Starsky's eyes widened.  "You think one of us --"

"No," Hutch interrupted firmly.  "But it's on the news every fucking night.  This isn't going away.  Let's get the damn test, so whenever someone gets all hot and bothered because they're afraid to be around us, at least we can pull out a fucking piece of paper that shows that we're clean."

Starsky's mouth fell open.  "Did somebody say something to you?  Did something happen?"

"Not yet," Hutch emphasized.  "I'm just tired of constantly having people say something about it, even when they mean well and are just concerned.  There's going to be more of that in Minnesota."

"Yeah, well, it's not like the results are going to be in by the time we travel back there."

Hutch sat silent.

"Yeah, okay, I'll call the doctor and schedule us both in."

Hutch nodded.  "Good."

Starsky squeezed Hutch's knee.  "What else is going on, huh?"

Hutch managed a smile at his love's worry.  "Nothing."  He drew a deep breath, his eyes darting about the garage.  "I just never thought....  I just never expected that two months before my thirty-ninth birthday, I'd be living in a nice house, in a nice neighborhood, confident that I'd be spending the rest of my life with someone that I love so much, and who loves me so much."  He paused.  "I guess being private detectives isn't that much of a stretch.  But I never would have imagined that I'd be living with someone who is writing a book about us being abducted by aliens, about my having been hooked on heroin for short time, about you having lost someone dear to your heart because some goofball that flipped out and wanted revenge.  And you having broken your leg, and I having broken my leg, and you getting shot, and my getting shot."  Hutch's eyes darted around the garage again.  "And now we're getting tested for a disease that's killing people off who love the way we love.  And tomorrow we're going to see our very own racehorse run in a race that she actually has a shot at winning, and we're paying for her upkeep with money sitting in an account that was never supposed to be ours, but ended up being ours, anyway."  Hutch looked down at the bumper he was sitting on.  "And I never would have believed I'd some day own a quality car like this -- and like owning it."

A grin slowly stretched across Starsky's face.  "Is that your super long-winded way of saying c'est la vie?"

Hutch snorted.  "I guess."  He tilted his head.  "I was once a super tough cop, huh?"

"As I was."  Starsky shrugged.  "Guess we've both grown up to be a couple of mush balls."  He beamed at Hutch with affection.  "I don't mind."

"I don't either, except you get all worried when I get teary-eyed."  Hutch brushed at his eyes.

Softly, Starsky said, "I just don't want there to be anything going on with you that I don't know about."

Hutch shook his head.  "I can't remember the last time I made a point of not telling you something."  He sobered as a thought occurred.  "Maybe that's why it hits me so hard that you care so much.  I'm so accustomed to you and I being an us, for so many years now, that I'm not even sure if I have a sense of my own self anymore, as a person independent of you."  He eyed Starsky.  "But you always seem to have a sense of your self, independent of me."  Before Starsky could comment, Hutch added, "I envy that."

Starsky was quiet a moment, and then said, "I'm not sure there's anything to envy.  Hutch, if you weren't in my life," Starsky's voice quavered, "I can't even imagine how I would pick up the pieces and move on.  I feel like my whole life is a reaction to yours.  I think you're romanticizing the idea that I'm somehow more of a whole person than you are."  He smiled wryly.  "Besides, it doesn't really matter, does it?  We know we're always going to be an Us."

"Yeah," Hutch agreed, his throat tight.

Starsky tilted his head.  "You know, Hutch, I think the idea of going back to Minnesota is starting to get to you, even though you get along with your folks now."  His voice softened, and he stood, reaching to squeeze Hutch's arm.  "I'm going to standing right beside you.  So, if you have some reactions to things that creep up on you unexpectedly, I'm going to be right there, making it all okay."

Hutch knew that was true.  It made him wonder why it also seemed true that some things could creep up on him unexpectedly.  He'd gone back to Minnesota a few days last year, but that was when everything revolved around his father having prostate cancer.  That's where all his focus was.  Starsky hadn't been with him, and that had been okay.

Hutch realized a new truth.  "I guess it's the idea that you're going to want to dig into things about my childhood.  There's nothing mysterious about it, buddy.  But... yeah," he nodded, "I guess there's something about that that makes me uneasy, but I don't understand why."

Starsky's hand moved until he clasped Hutch's hand.  "I'll be okay, Hutch.  I won't let it be any other way."

Hutch nodded,.  He stood and turned to reach into the trunk.  "Help me get all this stuff inside the house."


Hutch was glad that their partnership still functioned like it always had.

He and Starsky were standing in the paddock at Hollywood Park, before the empty stall that had "6" painted at the back of it.  A couple of the horses had arrived for the fourth race, but there was yet to be any sign of Darla, Blinks, or Mike Hawkins.

Starsky was a bundle of nerves.  He kept bouncing up and down, rubbing his hand along his face, ringing his hands, muttering, "Man, this is so cool.  This is so cool."  And sometimes putting his hand to his stomach, where nerves had prevented him from having lunch.

Beside him, Hutch felt ultra calm.

Thankfully, Dobey had developed an immediate affinity for their video camera, and he was stationed on the rail around the paddock, waiting to film when Darla arrived.

Starsky slapped Hutch with his folded Racing Form.  "There she is!  There she is!" 

Hutch turned to the entrance of the paddock.  Darla stood, with Blinks at her bridle, while a man rolled back her upper lip.

"What's he doing?" Starsky demanded.

"Checking her tattoo to make sure she's really Deep Waters."  Hutch turned to find Dobey on the rail, and motioned that the horse entering the paddock was Darla.

"Oh, right." 

They'd seen a bill for the lip tattoo a few weeks back.

When her lip was released, Darla stood with her head high, looking over the crowd.

"Oh, man.  Oh, man.  She's so gorgeous.  She's the most gorgeous thing on this Earth."

It took some prompting, but Blinks got her to move forward, and led her near Starsky and Hutch, and then turned her to enter the stall across from them.

Mike Hawkins walked briskly by.  "Hi ya, fellas."

"Hey, Mike," Hutch said. 

"Hi," Starsky gasped.

Mike walked into the stall and patted Darla's neck.  She was watching the crowd again, her head held high.

Hutch looked over at another horse that had just entered the paddock, and she kicked out with her hind feet.  Foam had developed along her neck.  Other horses were shifting restlessly in their stalls.

Darla continued to stare calmly at the crowd.

With admiration, Hutch said, "She's really something, compared to these other young fillies."

Men appeared, each with a saddle, and going to the stalls.

Hawkins took the saddle from the valet, which Hutch knew belonged to their jockey, and placed it on Darla's back.  The valet went to the opposite side of Darla to assist with the saddling.

The horse in the second stall suddenly lunged forward as her girth was tightened.

Darla tossed her head repeatedly.

"I think she's getting nervous, Hutch."

"She's still acting better than most of the others."

Horses began to be led out and walked around by their grooms after they were saddled.  When Darla joined them, Hawkins walked over to where Starsky and Hutch were.  "She's ready," he said simply.

The jockeys appeared. 

Hutch spotted one jockey wearing the custom silks that he and Starsky had ordered to represent their colors.  There was an SH on the front and back, as well as both sides of the helmet.  The S was in black, the H in deep yellow, the curves of the S touching the left side of the H. The background was red, to represent the Torino they used to drive around in.   

"This must be Jack Jowlart," Starsky said breathlessly, as the rider came closer.

He looked like a pimply-faced teenager.

"Hi," Jowlart said, reaching to vigorously shake both their hands.

"Hi, Jack," Hutch greeted.

Hawkins put his had on Jowlart's shoulder.  "Let her settle wherever she wants to be.  Then she'll let you do what you want with her.  If she wants to go to the front, don't argue with her.  She's on her toes and is ready for a big run.  She's not going to quit on you."

"Okay."  Jowlart grinned at Starsky and Hutch.  "See you in the winner's circle."

"Yeah," Starsky nodded breathlessly.

The horses were halted before their groups of humans.  Jowlart went over to Darla and took the reins, lifting up his left foot.  Hawkins grabbed the raised ankle and hoisted Jowlart onto Darla's back.

Darla had her head raised and was studying the crowd.

Starsky muttered, "I hope Dobey's getting good shots of her."

One of the fillies at the end of the line of eleven horses reared up, and her jockey quickly jumped off.

The front of the line started moving out of the paddock, and the filly in front of Darla spun around, but Blinks' quickly halted Darla, until the upset filly was moving forward again.

"Man, she's the class of this field," Starsky said.

As each horse moved out of the paddock, it was joined by a lead pony.  The unseated rider had quickly remounted, and before long all the horses were on the track.

Hawkins said, "I'll show you guys where my box is, so we can watch from there."

Hutch waved over at Dobey while Starsky said, "We've got a friend with us."

"There's plenty of room," Hawkins assured.

Eventually, they made their way up to the grandstand where there were box seats.  Since it was a Thursday, it wasn't very crowded.

Starsky had his binoculars out as the horses warmed up on the track.

Hutch kept wanting to ask Mike, who stood to his right, what he thought, but he knew that there wasn't anything Hawkins could say beyond what he had already told them.

As soon as they had arrived at the track, Starsky had insisted on putting a hundred dollars on Darla in each of the top three finishing positions.  Hutch wasn't too happy about three hundred dollars being spent merely to "show support" that Darla wouldn't be able to appreciate, but he hadn't been in the mood for making an argument he was sure to lose.

Starsky lowered his binoculars.  "What's her odds?"

"She just went down to five to two," Hutch said unhappily.  She had been listed as the third choice at five to one on the morning line.  Now she was the second choice, and as each minute passed, Starsky was looking to make less and less on his bet. 

"How does she look?"  Hutch asked.  The horses were now starting to go behind the starting gate, which was set in a chute at the beginning of the backstretch.

Starsky raised the binoculars again.  "She keeps stopping to look around.  Some of the other horses are broke out in a sweat, but she's not."  

The announcer said over the loud speaker, "It is now post time."

Starsky lowered the binoculars and put his hand to his stomach.  "Oh, God.  Oh, God.  I don't think I've ever been this nervous in my life."

Dobey, who was on the other side of Starsky, lowered the video camera.  "Don't jostle me during the race."

"I'll grab a hold of Hutch," Starsky said.  He did that now, taking Hutch's forearm in a tight grip.  With his other hand, he put the binoculars to his eyes again.

Hawkins said, "It might take them a while to load, considering most of them are starting in their first race.  There's always one or two that act up."

After watching a few moments, Starsky's squeezed Hutch's arm harder.  "She just went into the gate."

"Is she standing okay?" Hutch asked.

"It's hard to tell from this angle, but I think so."

Mike had his binoculars to his eyes.  "The two horse is acting up a lot."

Hutch watched as fewer and fewer horses remained behind the starting gate.

Still watching through his binoculars, Starsky gasped, "Ah, man, Hutch, our moment is finally here."

The announcer said, "All in line."

Hutch watched the gates open and the horses come out, a ringing bell inside the grandstand indicating the close of the betting windows.

"God DAMN it!" Hawkins exclaimed.  "She came out sideways."

Hutch watched the horses leave the chute and head down the backstretch.  He saw a dark horse with a jockey in reddish colors running second-to-last, the remaining nine horses strung out in front of her.

"Come on, get her movin'," Hawkins growled.

"She's going!" Starsky exclaimed.

Hutch watched as Darla began to pass horses.  She seemed to be going faster with each stride and got up to the middle of the field.

The horses were entering the far turn and Darla seemed to be going wider.

Hawkins yelled, "That goddamned sonofabitch!"

Hutch assumed he meant the jockey.

Starsky asked, "What she doing?"  He lowered his binoculars.

Hutch saw Darla in the middle of the track, way wider than the other horses, and felt any excitement about winning leave him.  She was sixth or seventh, angled out wide, and as the horses entered the home stretch, she was by herself in the middle of the track.

"She's coming on!" Starsky said.

Now that Darla had stopped losing ground, and was running straight, she began to fly by horses.  The announcer said, "Deep Waters is making a huge run!"

Hutch knew it was impossible for her to win, for the finishing line was coming up too fast.  But he felt heartened as he watched her power into third place, three lengths behind the winner, and the second horse tiring a length in front of her.

She went under the finish line, and then quickly passed the second horse, as the jockeys stood high in their stirrups.

"Oh, God," Starsky said, bending over and taking deep breaths.

Hutch asked Hawkins, "Did she blow the turn?"

"No," he growled, "it was that jackass who sent her wide.  She should have won this."  He turned away.  "I'm heading down there."

Hutch squeezed Starsky's shoulder.  "You okay?"

"Man, that's a heartbreaker.  She was coming on so fast."

"Yeah.  Let's go down to the track."

Dobey said, "Hey fellas, I met up with a guy I know who used to be a cop.  He'll take me back to my car after the next race."

"You sure?" Hutch asked.

"Yeah.  You guys go ahead."  He handed Hutch the video camera.

"Okay."  Hutch squeezed his shoulder.  "Thanks so much for everything.  I hope you didn't bet too much on her."

Dobey grinned.  "I had some show money on her, so that'll help."

Starsky straightened and patted Dobey's arm.  "Thanks, Cap'n.  I'm sorry she didn't win."

"Yeah, me, too."

Starsky and Hutch briskly made their way down the grandstand, until they spotted Hawkins walking through a gate that led onto the track, where the jockeys were trotting the horses back in front of the grandstand, to be met by their grooms. 

Hawkins glanced back at Starsky and Hutch and firmly said, "Stay back."

They both stood next to the rail, and saw Darla being jogged toward Blinks.

Starsky released a heavy breath, "Man, that's a killer, to be third after she came on so strong like that."

"Yeah.  Were you able to see how bad she broke?"

"Not really.  I don't have a trained eye like Mike does.  What the fuck happened on the turn?  All of a sudden, she was way wide."

"He talked like it's all the jock's fault."

They watched Blinks step forward as Darla was slowed to a walk.  Hawkins yelled at the jockey, "Did you think you were going to reach the finish line by taking a side trip to the goddamned moon?"

Jowlart looked down at Hawkins and said a few things.  Then he jumped out of the saddle, and began to unlatch the girth, still talking back over his shoulder.

Starsky said, "I can't hear what he's saying."

"I can't, either."

The announcer began to give information on the horse that had won the race, as she was led into the winner's circle.

Hutch squeezed Starsky's shoulder as they both watched.  "Maybe that'll be us next time, huh?"

"I sure hope so.  Darla was the best horse in the race."

Jowlart carried his saddle toward the weighing scales with his head down.  Someone called out from crowd, "Jowlart, you idiot dumb ass!"

"Hey!" Hawkins called.

Starsky and Hutch looked up to see their trainer gesturing down the track, where Blinks was leading Darla away.  Hawkins called, "I'm going back to the barn."

"We'll be there soon," Starsky called back.  Then to Hutch, "Let's take the car and drive over there."

"Yeah."  Hutch released a heavy breath.

They focused on finding their way out of the grandstand, and then reaching Hutch's LeBaron in the parking lot.  Once they were driving to the backside, where the barns were, Starsky said, "Even with that bad break, she would have won if she wouldn't have been so wide."

"Yeah.  At least, we know she's capable of winning.  That's no small thing."

When they eased up to Barn 12, they could see Darla getting her bath.  She was kicking out with a hind foot, and Hawkins had a hold of her halter and seemed to be looking her head over.

As they got out of the car, Starsky asked, "What's wrong?"

Hawkins released the halter, and stroked Darla's face.  "She got a dirt clod in her eye."

"Dirt clod?"

"Yeah, I doubt it's anything serious.  I'll have the vet look at it when he drops by later.  It probably just needs to be flushed out."

Darla kicked again.

"How come she keeps kicking like that?"

Hawkins replied, "She scraped the skin off the back of her hind fetlocks, so she's a little tender.  As soon as she's cooled out, I'll put some ointment on them.  Next time, she'll get rundown bandages to protect her."

Hutch asked, "What did the jockey say?"

Hawkins stepped away from Darla to stand next to them.  "He said she got sandwiched at the start by the horses on both sides of her.  Then after he got her moving down the backside, she started to hesitate -- probably because she got the dirt clod in her eye -- so he decided to take her around, and he said before he knew it, she was in the middle of the racetrack."  Hawkins shook his head.  "He didn't realize how strong of an engine he had underneath him, and he put too much force on the reins when he was pulling on her to take her outside the other horses.  So, she was just doing what she thought he was telling her.  I really thought that he had a good feel for her strength when she blew her out the other day, but apparently not."

"Man," Starsky said, "that's incredible -- her coming on like that when she had a dirt clod in her eye and had skinned up her legs."

Hawkins looked directly at them.  "Sorry, fellas.  This was my fault.  She should have won, and would have with a more experienced rider.  She'll definitely have that next time."

Starsky asked, "When do you think that'll be?"

"Assuming she cools out fine, and there isn't any damage to her eye, in a couple of weeks.  This race didn't take much out of her, even though she ran a lot more distance than the other horses.  She's not very tired.  That's part of the reason she's kicking.  She's still wound up from all the excitement."

Blinks threw a lightweight blanket over Darla, and then began to walk her around.

Hutch sighed, realizing how exhausting the day had been.  "At least we know she's a real racehorse."

"Yeah," Hawkins said, "you can take heart from that.  She's sure to be favored the next time she runs.  I'll have blinkers on her, too, in case she's gotten any weird ideas that she's supposed to run straight on the turns, instead of bending around them."

Starsky asked, "That's those hoods on their heads with the cups around the eyes?"

"Yeah.  It allows them to only see forward, and a horse isn't going to go anywhere it can't see."

Hutch said, "Sorry if this is a stupid question, but why don't all horses have blinkers?"

"You never want to give a horse more equipment than it shows that it needs.  You start trying to prevent all sorts of things from happening ahead of time, and you can mess up their natural running style.  Plus, a competitive horse is going to dig in if he's in the lead and another horse comes up to him.  Horses can normally see somewhat behind them, as well as in front of them.  With blinkers, they don't know when another horse is coming up behind them.  So, there's always a bit of a risk when you start tinkering with equipment."

"There's so much to think about," Starsky marveled.

Hawkins grinned.  "That's my job, guys.  You don't need to be worrying about this stuff.  Not that I don't ever make mistakes, obviously."

Starsky said, "Hutch, why don't you get a shot of her being cooled out?"  Then, to Hawkins, "Is it okay if we film her skinned legs and her eye?  We're making a tape chronicling her first start, since we're going back to see Hutch's family in Minnesota next week." 

"Sure, that's fine."


An hour later, they were headed back home.

When they'd filmed Darla's hind fetlocks, there had been blood on them.

Starsky said, "Man, she's like the Sylvester Stallone of female racehorses.  She's so tough and so courageous.  Coming on like that at the end, when she had injuries.  She's like some kind of Amazon queen or something."   He looked over at Hutch.  "Aren't you proud of her?"

"Yeah," Hutch said sincerely.  "I just hope she can win next time.  That'll be even better."  He then realized, "Hey, you never cashed your show ticket on her."

"Yeah, well, the tickets are good for a year, I think.  We can do it next time."

"Wonder how much she paid for being third.  If it was something like three bucks to show, and you had a hundred on her, that's fifty times three... you'd get a hundred and fifty back for a three hundred dollar bet."

"At least that's something.  It was probably all the money from the clockers that got her odds down so low.  I hope they didn't get burned too bad."

"Not our fault, if they did.  Nothing is a sure thing.  People ought to know better."

Starsky shifted in his seat.  "Man, she's something.  I can't believe she's ours.  I bet all the owners in the race wish she was their horse."

Hutch restrained a grin.  "I doubt the owners of the winner are complaining."

"Yeah, but Darla would have run that horse down if they'd gone another furlong.  Maybe even half a furlong."  Starsky looked back over at Hutch.  "How much did she earn in purse money?"

"Third place gets ten percent.  That would be eighteen hundred dollars, and then Mike gets ten percent of that.  Then there was something about a little extra money from the California breeders' fund."

"Then that's enough to pay an entire month of her training, isn't it?"

"Yep.  And then some."

"That's awesome!  Maybe we won't even have to tap into that money that Steve Hanson left us, considering she's going to be racing again in two weeks.  If she wins, that would be something like nine or ten thousand."


"If we had a whole stable of racehorses, we could be rich."

Hutch turned to look at Starsky.  "Get that thought out your head right now.  Come on, we lucked out with Darla.  Steven Hanson was in this sport for twenty years and never made anything.  Let's just stick to our one filly."

Starsky grinned.  "She's our filly, all right.  Our princess.  Our super, super tough princess.  Man, she's incredible.  Like super woman."  He suddenly turned to look at Hutch.  "Am I talking too much?"

Hutch grinned widely.  "It's all right."  He reached over and squeezed Starsky's knee.  "It's fun seeing you so wound up like this."

"Aren't you excited, too?"

"Yeah.  But... you know, with reservations.  I think today showed how wrong things can go, even when you have the best horse.  Things that we have no control over."

"Yeah, but Darla did everything she could to make it right."

Hutch's gin widened even more.  He chuckled warmly, "I love you, buddy."  

He had every intention of expressing his feelings more intimately, once they got home.


The following Wednesday, before their flight the next morning, Hutch had all the bills spread out on the kitchen table when Starsky arrived home.  Starsky had been down at the bank to sign the application papers that Hutch had turned in a while back, since they would be co-signors on the new mortgage they hoped to get for the house.

"Well?" Hutch asked when Starsky entered the kitchen.

"They're all signed," Starsky said, sitting down.  "He said everything looks good, so far.  It'll be about a week before they hear back from the committee if we're approved or not.  They're kind of backed up right now, because so many people are trying to refinance, since the interest rates have dropped."

"At least, we've done everything we can."

Starsky glanced over the table.  "Are you paying bills?"

"Just getting started.  You want to help, like you said?"  Starsky had insisted he had wanted to help pay bills, after he'd realized he'd hurt Hutch's feelings by accusing him of always thinking about money.

Starsky moved to sit next to Hutch.  "Sure."

"All right, I've got three major piles here.  There's the household bills, the corporate bills, and Darla's bills."  Hutch handed him a checkbook.  "Why don't you start writing the checks to pay the corporate ones."

"Darla's bills are being paid out of the money market fund."

"Yeah, but we aren't supposed to write more than two checks a month, since it's a money market account.  So, I'll just pay her stuff from the household account, and then reimburse us with one check from the money market account."

"What about the money she earned from her race?"

"That's in an account at the track.  I figure we'll leave it in there for now, and if she earns a lot more next time, especially if she wins, we'll pull it out and put it in the money market account."

"How come we just don't pay our corporate bills out of our household account, and then reimburse ourselves with one check from the corporate account?"

Hutch sighed, "Because we aren't supposed to do that.  Remember?  Emerson has always told us that we should keep business stuff completely separate, because otherwise it won't go well for us if we're ever audited."  He indicated the checkbook Starsky held, "So, you need to pay the business bills out of that business account."

"Man, this seems so complicated.  So, is it like we've got four different bank accounts?"

"Five, including our own personal savings account.  Plus, we've got some stock investments."

"How did our lives get so complicated?"

"Two of the accounts are because of Darla -- the account at the track and the money market account with the money Hanson put in."  Hutch sighed.  "And she might make things more complicated still."

Starsky looked at Hutch in puzzlement.  "Why?"

"Because, if she wins the next time she runs, I want to have a meeting with Emerson and find out the tax consequences.  I have a feeling he's going to tell us that we need to treat her like a separate business, if we want to deduct her expenses from her earnings on our tax returns."

"Geez," Starsky said, "she's just supposed to be for some fun."

"I doubt Uncle Sam will see it that way, if she starts earning some serious money."

Starsky grabbed a corporate bill and began writing a check.  "Seriously, Hutch, I'm really glad you're on top of all this stuff.  It's making my head spin."  He spent a moment writing, and then said, "Wish we could make things simpler."

Hutch had started writing a check from the household checkbook.  "Look at this way, buddy.  If things weren't complicated, that would mean we wouldn't have very much money.  And we wouldn't be living in a nice house in a nice neighborhood, and driving nice cars.  And owning a racehorse."

"I guess that's one way of looking at it," Starsky muttered.

They both were silent for a few moments, as they continued to write checks.  Then Starsky asked, "Did you ask your parents if they have a VCR?"

"Yeah, they have one."

"Good, then we can show everyone the tape of Darla."

Hutch chuckled.  "Don't know how interested they'll be.  Plus, it'll give everyone the wrong impression that we're wealthier than we are, considering that it was Hanson's money that bought her."

"Still, it'll be fun to show her off after the barbeque."  After a moment, Starsky said, "So, are we in agreement about how we're going to behave at your parents'?  If anyone says anything that offends us, we're just going to let it roll off?"

"At least, try to let it roll off," Hutch amended.


They arrived in Minnesota late in the morning of Thursday, July 1st.  They had rented a car so Hutch would be free to show Starsky various landmarks around town.  That's how they spent most of the afternoon, after Richard and Lorraine had insisted on taking them out for lunch at an expensive restaurant.

On Friday, Starsky began to badger about seeing old photo albums of Hutch's youth, but ended up not looking at them much, since Hutch's mother, Lorraine, said it would be fine for them to borrow the albums and take them home.  She had later led them up to the attic, where possessions had been stored for over forty years.  She then left to do grocery shopping for the Sunday barbeque.  Richard had left for the office, so Starsky and Hutch were alone in the attic.  Lorraine had mentioned that Hutch's sister, Lanette, would be stopping by and staying for dinner, since she'd had an appointment out their way.

So far, some fifteen extended family members were expected at the barbeque.  They would be showing up sometime Sunday morning, with none planning to stay overnight.

In the attic, Starsky and Hutch had finally uncovered some boxes from the time period of when Hutch was a child.

Starsky pulled a small, plastic rifle from a box.  "Look at this.  You must have been playing cowboys and Indians."

Hutch snorted.  "Hard to believe Mom would have kept that."  He took the rifle from Starsky. 

"Well, judging from the other boxes, she's one of those people who feels it's easier to just throw things up into the attic to deal with later, rather than having to decide on the spot what to throw out."


Starsky watched Hutch twirl the small rifle around.  "You remember playing with that?"

"Vaguely.  I must have been, what?  Six?  That was a long time ago."

Starsky looked back in the box and moved some other toys around.  He found a spiral notebook.  "What's this?"  He began to leaf through the pages, and saw cursive handwriting that he recognized.  He read, "November 10th, 1956.  I got a B+ on my science test.  Sam wants me and Jack to come over tomorrow after school and throw the football.  I think Mom will say it's okay.  I forgot to shovel the sidewalk after doing the driveway, and Dad got mad, so I had to do it after it was dark and really cold."

Hutch chuckled softly.  "Oh, I remember that.  My social studies teacher gave us a semester-long assignment of keeping a journal, because he said that's the only way people know about history, is if things are written down.  So, he wanted us to write down things that seemed significant that happened each day."  Another chuckle.  "He was very careful to refer to it as a journal, not a diary, since diaries are girl stuff."

Starsky flipped to the front, which had a grade.  "You got an A-, along with the comment, "Nice job with writing almost every day, but you should expand your thoughts more on each major event.  Then you would have gotten an A+."

"See?" Hutch said.  "I can't write the way you do."

"This is a keeper," Starsky said fondly.  He flipped a few more pages.  "November 18, 1956.  Jack is talking about running away from home.  I don't think he means it.  His parents are nice."  Starsky looked up.  "Is that Jack Mitchell?"  He remembered the ill-fated high school friend of Hutch's they'd met while on a case in Las Vegas.


"Did he try running away from home?"

"Nah.  He'd get mad about something and say things like that, but an hour later he'd have completely forgotten about it."

Starsky turned a page.  "December 2, 1956.  Sarah Lawrence smiled at me in Math class.  When we're older, I would like to ask her out for a date."  Starsky laughed.  "How old are you?  Thirteen?"

"Yeah.  In junior high."

Still grinning, Starsky asked, "Did you ask her out when you were both older?"

"No.  She moved away at the end of the school year, I think."

Starsky flipped back toward the front.  "September 29, 1956.  I got really mad at my sister, Lannie.  I hid one of her favorite dolls."  He looked up.  "You remember that?"

Hutch shrugged.  "No.  Sounds mean, doesn't it?"

Starsky sighed.  "Let's not talk about some of the things I did to defenseless little Nicky, when I felt spiteful."  Then he said, "I wonder what your parents thought when they read that."

Hutch shook his head.  "They didn't read it."

"They didn't?"

Another shrug.  "No.  They just cared about the grade on the front."  Hutch shifted with discomfort.

"Yeah, I guess that sounds like them.  But I'm going to read every sentence."  Starsky put the notebook aside and watched Hutch shift away and wipe at his eyes.  Ah, Hutch.

Starsky looked back in the box, while Hutch said, "Hey, uh, buddy, I think I'm going to drive into town and fill up the car with gas."  He released a breath.  "I don't really like being up here.  You know?"

Starsky knew there wouldn't be any point in arguing that all these mementos seemed pretty harmless.  He knew Hutch was on an emotional edge, just because of the reason Starsky had wanted to visit Minnesota.  "Yeah, okay.  But I'm going to want to take some of this stuff home with us.  So, maybe while you're out, you can buy another suitcase?"

Hutch quickly nodded, his head still lowered.  "Yeah, okay."  He started to move to the stairs.

"Hey."  Starsky stood and moved close enough to put his arm around Hutch.  "I'm glad your mother kept this stuff."  He slid his other arm around him and patted his back.  "Maybe, after a bit, you'll be used to me seeing into your past like this, and it won't hit you so hard."

Hutch squeezed his arm, and then dislodged from the embrace and moved down the stairs.

Starsky went back the box and removed a yellow Tonka dump truck.  He used to have toys like this that he played with in a sandbox at a park near his home. 

He heard a noise at the front door, indicating Hutch had left.

Starsky next pulled out a baseball mitt.  He tried to put his hand inside, but it couldn't reach very far into the child's glove.  He definitely wanted to keep the mitt.

He was at the bottom of the box, and found some papers lying flat.  He shifted to get a better grip and realized he was pulling out a coloring book.  It was about different types of sports.

He heard the door open, and wondered if Hutch had forgotten something.  He called down, "That you, Hutch?"

"No," an approaching woman's voice said.  "He just left.  David?"


She began to climb up the stairs to the attic.  She was wearing slacks and a button blouse.  "Yeah.  I just said hello to him for an instant.  He seemed eager to leave."

"Hi, there," Starsky greeted with a grin.  "He won't be gone long."

She nodded at him.  "Kenny looked upset.  Did you two have a fight?"

Starsky snorted.  "Not hardly.  He just gets weepy-eyed rather easily these days."


Starsky indicated the items that was placed around him.  "It's just an emotional thing for him."

She furrowed her brow as she shifted to sit.  "What's so special about all this?  It's just old stuff."

Starsky had to remind himself that the one time he'd met Lanette previously, when she'd happened to visit them at the same time Nick had, she could be unusually blunt.  He decided to respond likewise.  "It's not the stuff itself.  It's the fact that I'm giving his younger self loving attention now, when he wishes he would have had it then.  Seeing me take so much interest, it brings up a lot of feelings for him." 

"I don't see much point in living in the past."

"Well, you can blame that on me," Starsky said quietly.  "See, Hutch and I get so flustered at times at all the people who don't understand how much we love each other, and how much history we have together, that I decided to write the history of our partnership.  And now I'm at a point where I want to go back, and talk about our childhoods.  So, I needed to come out here, because I know so little about Hutch's.  It's all just a gray blur to him, something he'd rather forget.  But I really, really want to know the child he was, as much as possible."

Puzzled, she asked, "So, you already have a publisher?"

"No, no.  This is something I'm doing as a casual thing.  It's not like I'm trying to publish it.  It's just something I wanted to get written down.  So, some day after we're gone, it can be found and others can understand what our love was all about."

"Why don't you want to publish it when you're alive?"

"Because there's things in there that nobody else knows about, except he and I.  And a few other things that hardly anyone else knows about."  Starsky shrugged, realizing, "Who knows, maybe we'll end up publishing it when we're old men and don't care anymore what anybody else thinks about some of the things we've been through."

With discomfort, she said, "That almost sounds like a tease."

Starsky snorted while leafing through the coloring book.  "Well, I admit I didn't intend to tell anyone about the book, but now I guess it really doesn't matter.  It's a long-term, ongoing project."  Remembering how she had seemed to think little of the future of their relationship when she had visited, he said pointedly, "I'm going to be with Hutch for as long as we both live.  So, there's no hurry to finish it." 

She gazed at him a long moment.

Impulsively, Starsky grabbed the notebook that was a journal, and leafed through the first few pages.  "Hey, let's see if you remember this.  Hutch wrote in here September 29, 1956.  I got really mad at my sister, Lannie.  I hid one of her favorite dolls.  You remember that?"

She shrugged.  "He always did mean things like that when he got mad.  Then he would feel bad after a few hours, and give me back the doll. I wouldn't remember that particular occasion, because there was more than one."

Starsky sighed.  "Yeah, he's always been known to have a temper."  He leafed through a few more pages, and then emphatically declared, "I'm so proud of him."


"Because he had every excuse to grow up to be a person with a lot of walls surrounding him, to not let anyone know his feelings."  Starsky looked directly at Lanette.  "But he's always had the courage to let me see his vulnerabilities.  He's always given me all of himself." He swallowed thickly.  "That's the greatest gift imaginable -- when the person you love opens themselves up so you can see all their tender places, because they know you're going to protect those places, and not hurt them."

Starsky realized that he was spending all this time with Lanette talking about Hutch, and after finding out from Nicky that she thought them "self-centered and self-absorbed" -- which Nick himself had agreed with -- Starsky had decided that they would take more interest in her life the next time they had contact.  But now he found himself not caring that his main focus was Hutch.  Still, he softened his voice and asked, "How are you doing?"

She shrugged.  "Things are pretty much the same."



"I guess there's supposed to be a lot of family members at the barbecue.  That's where your mom is now -- buying groceries.  I studied a family tree I had your mother make when your parents visited a year or so ago, so I would hopefully know who most of the people are."

She was thoughtful a long moment, and then said, "You know, not everyone is complacent as Mom and Dad are about your and Kenny's 'situation'.  But I don't suppose anybody will say anything, with Dad around."

Starsky drew a breath.  "Yeah, we've been prepared for that.  We're willing to let anything along that line blow over, as much as possible."

She emphasized, "Dad will get mad if somebody says something out loud."

Starsky smiled warmly.  "Yeah.  That's pretty neat how things have turned out between him and your brother."

She snorted.  "People always get different when someone is dying."

Starsky cocked his head.  "You know, Hutch and your Dad didn't get closer because your Dad is terminal.  If your father would have called and simply said, 'I've got cancer', Hutch would have said, 'I'm sorry to hear that, is there anything I can do?' and that would have been the end of it."  Starsky slowed his words to emphasize his point.  "The reason Hutch and your dad got closer was because, when your dad called to say he had cancer, he admitted that he was scared."  Starsky nodded.  "That's what melted Hutch.  He'd never expected your father to admit to having feelings like that."  He put the journal aside, and picked up the coloring book again.  "It made all the difference."

Starsky began to leaf through the coloring book, seeing some of the drawings filled in with 'incorrect' colors.  Some were outside the lines.  Then he glanced up.  "So, am I going to get to meet your husband, Jeffrey, on Sunday?"

"Yeah, he'll be here."

Starsky nodded toward the boxes behind him.  "Does he know what you were like as a little girl?"

She scoffed, "He married an adult, not a little girl."

Starsky considered her answer.  "Haven't you been curious as to what he was like as a little boy?"

"I've seen some photo albums and stuff.  But I'm a lot more interested in the man that he is today."

"You aren't curious about where he came from?"

"I know the basic stuff."

Starsky said blandly, "Then I guess I'm really weird.  Because I want to know everything this is to know about Hutch.  All the things that made him the man he was when I first met him and was instantly fascinated by him."

She asked skeptically, "Is he this interested in you?"

"I think so.  He just hasn't had to work very hard at it, because the one time he met my mother, she was full of stories about me as a child."  Starsky smiled and made a point of not sounding accusing.  "See, where I come from, it's a normal thing for parents to dote on their children, even after they're grown."

"Well," Lanette drew a long breath, "our parents were never like that."

"I know," Starsky said gently.  "In my opinion, you guys missed out on a lot of love and positive attention that children should automatically be entitled to."  He felt his throat get tight.  "That's why I want to love those places now in Hutch that got so neglected.  Because that little boy deserved it."  He swallowed again and looked directly at Lanette.  "You did, too."

She shrugged.  "You can't miss what you've never had."

"Yeah, well, that's the answer I'd expect you to give.  I must admit, you've made one heck of a life for yourself, even with so little help."

She muttered, "Not that anyone in the family knows it.  Or cares."

Starsky gazed at her a long moment.  "Your brother cares.  He really wishes you guys were closer.  I do, too.  Between the two of us, we don't have much in the way of immediate family."

"We're different people," she said simply.  "I'm never going to be someone who wears my heart on my sleeve, like he does."

Starsky thought of a number of replies to that, and decided to proceed with the one that would be most neutral.  "We're not asking you to."  He shrugged, realizing it wouldn't be beneficial to push.  Instead, he said, "He's still your brother, Lanette.  The type of relationship we have doesn't change that."  He softened.  "I wish you could understand a little bit about how much we mean to each other."

There was a noise outside, and she quickly said, "That must be Mom."


After dinner, Starsky showed the immediate family members the video tape of Darla.  They made happy noises and asked appropriate questions.

Starsky made a point of saying that he was going to go over some items he wanted to keep with Richard and Lorraine.  Hutch realized that was his cue to spend some time alone with his sister.  He suggested they take a walk, since the summer sun had almsot set.

"Hey," Hutch began gently, "I'm sorry if I took off sort of sudden earlier today, when you drove up.  I just needed to get some air."

"Dave said that you get 'weepy eyed' these days."

Hutch felt bashful.  "Yeah, well, it's hard, you know.  Coming back here for the purpose of him digging into the past."

"If it upsets you, why don't you tell him not to?"

Hutch blinked and then stopped.  He turned to look directly at his sister.  "Lannie, it's not like I object to him doing it.  He wants to find out about me, before he knew me.  It's been one of his biggest frustrations with our relationship, because nobody in the family will ever say much.  It's almost like I didn't exist."  He heard the pity in his own voice and fought to curb it.   Then, he asked, "Don't you feel like that sometimes?  Like Mom and Dad got married because that's what people were supposed to do, and they had us because married people are supposed to have children?  Not because they wanted us."

"Sure.  But we can't fix that."

They began walking again.  "No, we can't.  But Starsky wants to get a mental image in his head of what I was like as a kid.  I love him so much for being so interested, but it kind of gets to me, because I'm not used to somebody caring so much about the boy that I was."

Hutch suddenly remembered that he'd been told, via Starsky via Nick, that Lannie considered he and Starsky to be "self centered and self absorbed."  He made a point of turning the conversation away from himself.  "How are you and Jeffrey doing?"

She shrugged.  "Fine."

Hutch wished she would elaborate more.  "You two worked things out?"

"I don't know that I'd put it that way.  It's more a matter of things just went back to how they've always been.  The marriage works for our purposes."

Hutch felt his chest tighten.  "Starsk and I see so many people who are unhappy in their relationships."  He paused, turning toward her.  "I wish so much that the people I care about could have what we have."

She shrugged, and continued walking.  "You're still new to each other."

"No, we aren't," Hutch said firmly, wondering if he sounded argumentative.  "Just because we didn't start sleeping together until the past couple of years doesn't mean that our partnership wasn't just as important to us the decade or so prior to that.  We've always put each other first, Lannie.  We've been through so much together.  Things, good and bad, that most other people will never get to experience.  It's bonded us so tightly.  All the sex did was enhance that to a wonderful degree."

"He says he's writing a book."

Hutch was surprised that Starsky had been that forthright.  "Yes.  He writes beautifully, too.  I had no idea he had that in him."

"But he says he doesn't plan to publish it until you guys are really old."

Hutch shrugged.  "There's some deeply personal things in there that nobody else knows.  We aren't ready yet for other people to know about them."  For the first time, Hutch considered, "Maybe we'll be ready some day."

"I can't imagine something that secretive.  You guys get involved in the CIA or something that's part of a government cover-up?"

It would be so convenient to agree to that untruth.  But Hutch said, "We aren't under anyone else's gag orders.  There's just some deeply personal things that have happened to us -- on the force, and off -- that if other people knew, they would look at us differently.  Judge us."

"Aren't you judged, anyway, for being homosexuals?"

"Sometimes.  Not really in our day-to-day lives.  We're fortunate in that we're pretty protected from judgment by being self-employed and have a business that caters to the upper middle class and the wealthy."

"I'll say.  If you guys are into racehorses now."

 "It's just the one horse.  And like we tried to explain, we didn't actually buy her with our own money.  It was an odd situation with our client dying, that happened to work out in our favor." 

They had come to a street that was busy with neighborhood traffic, so they turned around to head back.

Hutch tried again to turn the conversation away from himself.  "So, what's new and exciting with you?  How are your stores doing?"

"They're hanging in there.  I'm thinking of trying to open up another branch of my leather shop at the east end of town.  They're building a new shopette there."

"Oh, yeah?  When would it open?"

"Hopefully, by Thanksgiving for the holiday shopping season.  I'm not sure I'll go through with it, though, because they're demanding a huge rent amount.  I'm trying to negotiate a better lease, but I'm not sure they'll budge on it."

"I hope that works out for you, Lannie.  I really do."

She looked up and studied the horizon.  "Looks like a thunderstorm is brewing."

"Yeah.  Maybe you ought to spend the night here, and drive back in the morning."  Darkness was falling.

"What are you guys doing tomorrow?"

"Dad mentioned something about golfing, but nothing's been finalized.  I have a feeling he'd prefer just me and him go, and I know Starsky would be okay with that, since he has more snooping to do around in the attic."

"Yeah, maybe I will stay the night.  The sofa in the family room is pretty comfy."

Hutch furrowed is brow.  "Why not stay in your old room?"

She hesitated, and then laughed self-consciously.  "Oh.  Right.  You two would be sleeping together in your old room.  I keep forgetting that."

Hutch wasn't sure what she meant, but it made him uneasy.  "You mean that we sleep together?"

"Yeah," she said with equal discomfort, "and that it's so out in the open.  That Mom and Dad are okay about it."

Firmly, Hutch said, "They nor anybody else has a say in it.  We sure as hell aren't going to sleep apart, just because it might make some people uncomfortable."  He made a point of squelching the anger he felt brewing.  He recalled, when he'd dropped Lannie off at the airport when she'd visited them, that she had said something about them "playing at being married, right down to having rings".

Hutch stopped, so Lannie did, too.  "You really have no idea what we mean to each other, do you?"  Before she could answer, he pressed, "We're just a big joke to you."

She started forward again.  "What do you want me to say, Kenny?"

Hutch tried to soften as he quickly joined her.  "That you're happy for me that I'm so happy.  That however much you may agree or disagree with our type of relationship, that you respect our right to be the way that makes us happiest."  Weakly, he added, "That you want me to be happy."

She was shaking her head.  "You're so naive, I can't believe it."

He was angry now.  "What do you mean?"  He took her arm, stopping her.

She snorted.  "Do you really think that there's something special about you and David?  That you're any different from anyone else?  That you two aren't going to be sleeping with other people, assuming you haven't already?"

Hutch's mouth fell open.

She went on, "God, Kenny, you act like you believe you're immune from life or something.  Here's some advice from your little sister:  get real.  Pull your head out of the clouds, before you're hurt so badly that you won't be able to recover.  You're headed for such a disaster, and you don't even know it."

Hutch knew he should be hurt, but he felt strangely distant from her words.  Anger was more present, but even that seemed held at bay.  He wasn't sure by what.  He heard himself saying softly, "You have no idea what it can be like.  You've never, ever felt love in your life, have you?"

She wrenched her arm away.  "I worry about you.  You're so soft all over.  How are you going to deal with it, when you have to suffer real pain?"  She walked briskly toward the house.


"You don't have to ask," Lorraine emphasized to Starsky.  "Anything that's been up in the attic for thirty years or so, I won't miss, if you decide to take it."

Starsky was kneeling on the floor of the family room, where various old belongings of Hutch's were spread out next to the new suitcase Hutch had purchased.  "Okay, then.  Thanks a lot."  He began gathering up the items and placing them in the suitcase.  "I'll probably find more stuff tomorrow."

"You'll be doing us a favor, cleaning out some of that," Richard said from where he sat in an easy chair, reading the newspaper with glasses resting low on his nose.  "It'll leave fewer things for someone to clean out some day."

Lorraine said pleasantly from where she sat on the sofa, "I can't believe you actually want his old toys.  What are you going to do with them?"

Starsky shrugged.  "They're special to me because they were once special to him.  We have so few mementos from his past."

The front door closed loudly -- almost as though it was slammed.

They all looked up when Lanette walked briskly into the family room.  Her eyes were on Starsky.  "Kenny's out in the back.  He's probably upset and needs you to go baby him or something."

Starsky's mouth fell open.  What? 

He glared at Lannie as her disapproving tone registered.  Then he ran toward the kitchen's sliding glass door.

It opened out into a spacious, well-manicured yard that had an old, decorative water well at one end.  Hutch was sitting on an iron wrought bench, in front of a large flower garden, his head lowered.  Darkness had fallen, but the porch lights kept the yard decently lit.

"Hutch," Starsky called, approaching at a jog.

Hutch looked up.  "Hey," he said calmly.

Starsky plopped down next to Hutch on the bench, his arm going around him.  "What happened?"

"What did she say?"

"Something about you being upset and needing me to 'baby' you.  What happened?"

Hutch drew a breath, and then released it slowly.  He was still calm when he said, "She thinks I'm soft all over.  That I don't know what pain is."

Starsky's mouth opened.  He made a slight choking noise.  The words of disbelief he was trying to say were stuck in his throat.  He couldn't get anything to emerge.

Hutch chuckled softly, and then reached to squeeze Starsky's shoulder.  "It's not her fault."  Then, with a hint of sadness, "She knows nothing of my life."

Starsky put his hand to his throat, still struggling to say something.

Hutch's hand moved from Starsky's shoulder to stroke the back of his head.  "I'm okay.  Really."  He shook his head.  "We've never known much about each other.  Our whole family is like that."

Starsky felt himself take a deep, wheezing breath.  He wanted to speak, but still couldn't.

Hutch turned to look at him.  "Hey, partner," he said with concern.  His hand now rubbed along Starsky's back.

Starsky tried again, but more gasping noises occurred.

"Deeeep breath," Hutch soothed, rubbing at his back.  "Easy does it."

Starsky inhaled, which forced an exhalation.  He groaned deeply, and then collapsed across Hutch's lap.  He felt himself relax when he stopped trying to speak.

Hutch continued the massage along his back.  "I'm not mad at her, buddy.  I can't be.  She can't relate to anything about us.  It's not her fault that she doesn't know anything about warm, loving feelings."  Hutch's voice gentled further.  "I only know about that stuff because of you."

Starsky's voice was very dry, but he managed to gasp, "Stop making excuses for her."

"It's a fact."

Starsky felt himself go calm; otherwise, he didn't think he would be able to speak again.  "Does she know you got shot that once?"

"Maybe.  But she doesn't know how serious it could have been, or how painful it was.  Plus, she might have forgotten in the years since."  More softly, Hutch said, "It doesn't matter.  She's still my sister.  I still love her.  I don't want you to be hostile toward her.  We've still got a few days to get through."

"Does she know you had the plague?"

"She's had the flu before.  I'm sure it meant nothing more to her than that."

"But your parents saw you, when you will still so weak."

"Yeah, but they wouldn't have said much about it.  To anyone.  Seeing me like that surely made them uncomfortable."

Starsky shifted onto his back so that he was looking up at Hutch.  "Maybe we'll have to publish my book some day.  When we're alive."

Hutch's hand now rubbed at Starsky's chest, and he furrowed his brow.  "She sure seemed interested in it."

Starsky recalled being in the attic with Lanette.  "Yeah.  She called me a tease, for saying it had stuff in it that nobody else knows about."

Hutch chuckled softly.  "You're a tease all right.  But not that way."

Starsky then realized, "Maybe it wouldn't matter, if the book was published.  I can't imagine that reading our story would soften her up."  He shook his head.  "She sure is a tough nut to crack.  She has one of the hardest shells I've ever come across."

"Has she said anything to you about Nick?"

"Nah.  You?"


"Guess she played with him while she could, and then dropped him completely."

"I'd like to say it's for the sake of her marriage, but I can't believe that."  Hutch's voice was suddenly sad.  "She doesn't take relationships seriously, Starsk.  Not any relationships.  It's like she doesn't believe in them."

"I guess that's not surprising, considering the way your parents were always fooling around.  Poor kid."

The wind suddenly kicked up.

"Yeah."  Hutch released a heavy sigh.  "I think I'm ready to turn in."

"Yeah.  Okay."  Starsky made a point of sitting up, and then standing.

As they walked along the grass toward the house, Hutch said, "Please don't say anything to her."

"Yeah, I guess anything I might say wouldn't matter to her, anyway.  I'd just be wasting my breath."

Starsky reached for Hutch's hand just before they entered the house.  They moved to the entrance of the family room and Hutch said, "We're headed up to bed.  Goodnight."

"Goodnight," came the murmurs from Hutch's parents.  Then Lorraine said, "I put a new set up towels up in the bathroom.  The yellow ones."

"Thanks," Starsky said.  "Goodnight." 

Lanette glanced back at them from the TV, but seemed to have a neutral expression. 

Starsky squeezed Hutch's hand as they turned away.  "Kitchen.  Water."

They went to the kitchen, where Starsky drank a tall glass of water, and saw Hutch glance over his shoulder to make sure no one was looking, and then take a few sips directly out of the carton of orange juice.

Together, they moved up the staircase.


Once they'd completed their evening ablutions in the hall bathroom, they stripped down and settled into the queen-sized bed in what was now the main guest bedroom.  They both kept their underwear on, and had their robes nearby, since they were in someone else's house.  After they were under the covers, Hutch reached to turn off the lamp.

Hutch put his arm around Starsky as his partner snuggled up next to him. 

Outside the window, the rain began to fall.

Starsky said, "I wonder if this is partly my fault.

Hutch furrowed his brow.  "How?"

"Because, earlier today, when Lanette and I were in the attic, I told her I was proud of you for having grown up the way you and she did, but you were brave enough to show your feelings, and let me see inside of you.  Maybe she took that as a slap against the way she's chosen to live her life."

Hutch sighed.  "I don't think we're doing anyone any favors by trying to analyze this, buddy.  I feel that we've tried our best to establish a relationship with her.  She doesn't seem to want it."  Hutch shifted and sighed again.  "I feel our door's always open if she wants that from us later, but otherwise, I'm tired of trying to create a relationship when only one side is interested."

"Yeah," Starsky said with a matching sigh.  "It just burns me that she doesn't think you've suffered hurt in your life.  Man, if she only knew."

Hutch rested his chin on Starsky's head.  "Promise me you won't say anything to her about it."

"I can't do that, Hutch.  I can promise I won't be deliberately confrontational, but that's all I can promise.  We've got an all-day picnic to get through on Sunday."

Hutch said, "I think she'll be around tomorrow morning.  She seemed to have decided to stay the night, rather than having so far to drive in the rain."

Starsky grunted.

Hutch decided to admit, "She actually didn't realize we were sleeping together here.  She had assumed we were in different rooms."

Starsky raised his head slightly.  "Really?"

"Yeah.  She thinks we're a joke, Starsk.  She seems surprised that our parents put up with us."

"You know something?  When she and I were in the attic, she kept making a point of saying that any disapproving family members won't say anything to us in front on your dad.   I think she really wants his love, and she's jealous that you have it now.  In fact, I remember you mentioning that before."

Hutch felt his eyes water, but not for himself.  He nuzzled the top of Starsky's head.  "I don't blame her for being jealous.  But we can't fix this for her."

"That must of been hard for her, when she was a girl.  To see other girls her age being treated as a daddy's girl, or daddy's princess, and she didn't have that."

"No, definitely not."

"Neither of you did."

Hutch squeezed Starsky closer against him.  "It's doesn't matter now, buddy. I'm okay with everything regarding my parents.  And things are as okay as they're ever going to get with Lannie."

"I thought you two had a brotherly-sisterly relationship when you were younger.  I remember you telling me once how good it made you feel, when you were little kids, and you were pushing her on the swings."

Hutch felt touched by the memory -- and that Starsky remembered being told about it.  "Yeah, but... I'm the one who changed, you know?  She just sort of made the best of what she knew of life.  I went out and found a life that I could be happy with.  I was really angry inside.  We both were.  And I think, in a sense, that we both used our anger to fuel our determination to be successful at what we wanted to do.   But when it comes to love," Hutch felt his eyes water again, "I guess I was open to learning about that.  She continued on with what she knew, which was almost nothing at all.  Having affairs is what a relationship is to her.  She can't see how it can be otherwise."

"She doesn't seem to want to see."

"Yeah.  I guess she's comfortable with the way things are, if only if because that's the way things have always been."

Starsky pressed his face against Hutch's arm.  "I'm so glad you were open to being loved.  That you wanted it so much, that you had the courage to let other people in.  Even after having had a marriage with Vanessa."

Hutch mused, "I kept thinking that there had to be something else out there.  That it was possible to feel good, waking up every morning.  And that life wasn't just something to battle through."

Starsky shifted so that he was partially lying on top of Hutch.  He cupped the side of Hutch's face.  "'M so proud of you."

Hutch closed his eyes, letting the sincerity of feeling wash through him.  He admitted, "I don't think it was any effort on my part, but, rather, sheer desperation."

Starsky's voice almost sounded choked.  "The idea of a such a good man as you, going through a life that isn't full of love... that would be so wrong."

Hutch smiled warmly and snuggled down closer.  "Well, we don't need to worry about things turning out like that, do we?"

Starsky grunted in answer.

They lay silently for a few minutes.  Then Starsky muttered, "I'm wide awake."

"Yeah.  Me, too."

"Think I need my sleeping pill.  You okay with doin' it under your parents' roof?"


"Since the bathroom is down the hall, let's keep it simple.  Do a sixty-nine."  Starsky's hand rested low on Hutch's belly.

"Yeah, okay."  Hutch didn't normally like them pleasuring each other at the same time, because he liked his complete focus on giving or receiving.  But this seemed like an appropriate time to try something different.  He rolled toward Starsky and put his hand over his cotton-clad groin.

They kissed, long and leisurely, and Hutch felt Starsky's hand go lower, inside his underwear.

They paused when they heard footsteps coming up the stairs.  And then kissed again.

There was a hesitant knock at their door.

They took their hands away from each other.

"Son?" came from the other side of the door.

Starsky and Hutch immediately separated to their own sides of the bed, and made sure the covers were pulled to their waists.

Hutch reached to the lamp and turned it on.  "Come in."

The door opened.  Richard stood at the entrance and said, "We can have a ten o'clock tee off tomorrow morning.  This storm is expected to blow over quickly.  Did you want to go in place of my friend, Jarrod Wilkins?  We can stop by his house on our way in, and you can borrow his clubs."

Hutch nodded.  "Uh, sure."  He glanced at Starsky.

Starsky nodded.  "Yeah, you guys go ahead.  I want to do some more snooping around in the attic."

Richard nodded.  "Great.  Goodnight."

"Goodnight," they both said.

After the door closed, Hutch realized that his father had taken that well -- actually seeing his son in bed with another man.  He knew that witnessing something unusual wasn't the same as realizing it intellectually.  He reached to turn off the lamp.

Starsky's hand found his groin again.  "You still in the mood?"

"Might need some extra warming up."

"That, I can handle."

They kissed and fondled, the intensity and tempo gradually increasing. 

Hutch pushed down his underwear, maneuvering the material off his long limbs, and Starsky did likewise. 

Then Starsky turned around and disappeared under the covers.

Hutch took the thick, firm phallus in his vicinity, and guided it into his mouth.  He grunted agreeably when wetness enclosed his own spear.

And then there were only the sounds of sucking, and satisfied grunts and groans.


On the golf course, Hutch felt there was tension between his father and himself, having nothing to do with their own relationship.

They were up to the fourth hole, and Hutch completed his swing for a chip shot, and the ball bounced up onto the green, about six feet from the hole.

"Good shot," Richard said.  His own ball rested at the edge of the green, and he took a putter from his golf bag.  He glanced at Hutch.  "I hope everything is okay between you and Lanette."

Hutch was surprised to hear is father mention it.  He shrugged.  "As okay as it's ever going to be.  We're two different people, Dad."  He went to stand by the flag, ready to pull it out of the cup, if his father's putt got that close.

Richard eyed the distance between the ball and the hole.  "She's always been stubborn."  With a touch of humor, he added, "You were, too.  But in different ways, the two of you."  He stood beside the ball and bent his knees into a putting stance.

Hutch watched him hit the ball, and it rolled down the green, stopping a couple of feet to the left of the hole.  He decided to say, "She thinks Starsky and I don't have a serious relationship.  She has no idea what we mean to each other.  Of everything we've been through together."

Hutch moved to his ball and tried to gauge the strength of the putt he needed to get it into the hole, without skipping past it.

Richard was now at the flag, holding it.  "I guess it's the kind of thing you have to be around, to understand it.  I didn't understand it until all the things you told me when your mother and I visited."

That was such a small part of the whole picture, Hutch wanted to say.  He wondered what his father would think if he read Starsky's book.  Most likely, he would be dead from prostate cancer before it might ever be finished, let alone perhaps be published.  Richard had lost some noticeable weight, but still seemed to feel well enough to do everyday things.   

Hutch got into a putting stance and focused on a gentle swing that hit the ball and sent it rolling along the green.

Richard picked up the flag as the ball fell into the cup.  "Good shot."

Hutch smiled and bent to remove the ball.  "Not bad for being rusty."

They traded places, and Richard made the short putt that successfully sunk his ball into the hole.

They moved off toward their cart while Richard marked their scorecard.  Then he looked up.  "Son?"

Hutch halted next to the driver's side of the cart.  "Yeah?"

A slight smile appeared at the older man's mouth.  "I'm really glad that you're happy.  I can see that.  How devoted you and David are to each other.  I just wish that Lanette -- "  His voice caught, and he looked away.

Hutch moved the few steps necessarily to reach up and give a firm squeeze to his father's shoulder.  "We all have to find our way, Dad.  To change things, you have to really want them to change.  I don't think she does."  He let his hand drop.  "That's been a hard thing for me to swallow, but she has a right to live the way she wants."

Richard shook his head.  "I always thought she had her mother.  But, lately, it seems like Lanette doesn't have much to say to her, either."

Hutch thought of his and Starsky's conversation last night.  "You know, Dad, it might not hurt to get to know her better in the time you have left.  She would really appreciate that."

Richard shifted with discomfort.  "I don't know much about... girl stuff."

"Haven't you noticed that she's not much of a 'girl stuff' girl?  She has her stores, which she's very good at managing.  Believe me, I've been out on the streets, and it's very difficult being successful in retail for any length of time.  She's beaten the odds, Dad.  Without any help from anybody.  You once toasted Starsky and Hutchinson, Inc., for surviving its first year business.  You probably should have been toasting Lannie a long time ago."

Richard shrugged.  "I just figured...," he trailed off.  "I guess I always thought that was her husband's place.  And her mother's."

Hutch looked him in the eye.  "Daughters want to be loved by their fathers just as much as sons do."  He abruptly turned to the cart.  "Let's get to the next tee."


Starsky pushed a box aside that didn't contain anything of interest, and moved to the one behind it.

"David?" Lorraine's voice came from the floor below.

"Yeah?" he called down.

She started up the stairs.  "You still up here?"

"Yep.  I still want to go through the rest of the boxes."  He began looking through some clothing that was at the top of this particular box.

"I can't believe you want to spend so much time up here."  Lorraine emerged onto the floor.

He shrugged.  "Well, anything about Hutch's past is fascinating to me."  He was looking at what appeared to be old dresses from the forties.  He put them to one side, and then found a stack of infant clothes.  "Oh, look at his."  He held up a jumpsuit.  It was blue with airplanes.  He grinned.  "This much be Hutch's, huh?"

She nodded, and then sat with her legs curled beneath her.  "Yes, that was."

Starsky glanced farther into the box.  "There a whole stack of them.  But I'll just take this one back with me."

She said, "I kept them, in case they could be worn by a grandchild."  She looked away.  "But I guess that isn't going to happen."

Starsky sighed as he carefully placed the jumpsuit aside.  "Yeah, I'm sure that's disappointing.  It's just how things worked out."  Then he considered,  "But, who knows, maybe within the next decade the laws might change, and Hutch and I might consider adopting a child."  They'd never actually discussed it, but Starsky wanted to be placating.

She grimaced.  "An adopted child would hardly be the same.  It wouldn't be like carrying on the family name."

He said sincerely, "I'm sorry you feel that way."  Starsky took out the remaining clothes, because books appeared to be at the bottom of the box.  Then he asked congenially, "So, how was motherhood for you when you had Hutch?  Did you feel you were prepared, or did you need a lot of help from other women, like your own mother?"

Her expression grew reflective.  "Well, it was a little bit frightening," she admitted.  "But I read all the popular books on how to be a mother.  I pretty much took care of things myself when Kenneth was born.  There were other young mothers in the neighborhood at the time, so we'd usually get together for tea and give each other advice and such."

Starsky smiled.  "That sounds nice.  It's good to have people to count on."  Then he tried, "So, what was Hutch like as a baby?"

"Oh," she shrugged, "pretty good, I guess.  I'm not really sure how you decide a thing like that.  He pretty much learned things at the expected rate."  She paused.  "It took a while to wean him off his blanket, as he got older.  He liked clinging to it, especially when he was upset about something."

Starsky smiled fondly, and began moving some large reference books from the bottom of the box, to get to was underneath.

She said, "One day, his father had had enough of him holding onto that blanket.  So, he grabbed it from him and threw it into the trash out in the garage, so he wouldn't be able to get to it."  She shook her head.  "Oh, how Kenneth wailed and cried.  So loud.  But then, he got over it."

Starsky muttered.  "Well, his father did seem to have little tolerance for anything he perceived to be a weakness."  Starsky felt some sort of book at the bottom of the box, and got on his knees and used both hands to pull it out. 

"Ken grew up to be a good boy."  Then Lorraine's eyes suddenly darted away, as though now that Hutch was past growing up, she didn't necessarily approve of the direction his life had taken.

Starsky sat down with the new item in his hand. "What's this?"  It seemed an overly large photo album, but in addition to old photos, it had a lot of writing on the unlined pages.

Lorraine moved next to him.  "Oh, that's one of Aunt Bessie's scrapbooks."

Starsky took a moment to mentally examine Hutch's family tree.  "Aunt Bessie... who was your grandmother's sister?"

"Yes, my great aunt."

Starsky began carefully leafing through it.  Each photo had at least a paragraph of explanation, that had been written next to them by hand.  "Some of these photos are really old, going back to the 1800s."

"Yes, she sort of took it upon herself to be the family historian.  I think her daughter -- my aunt -- kept it going for a while after Bessie died, but then once she had a stroke in her 40s, I think that's when it ended."

"This is a goldmine," Starsky said excitedly.  "I want to take this back with us.  I'll return it with all with the photo albums, if that's okay."


"Are there more scrapbooks like this?"

"There might be.  Some of the other family members might have some, too.  Tell you what," Lorraine said, getting to her feet, "let me call everyone who is coming tomorrow, and ask them to bring any old heirlooms like that, that they might have."

"That would be great!" Starsky said.  "I'd really appreciate it."

Lorraine moved to the stairs.

Starsky continued to leaf through the book, turning the old pages carefully.  He came across a photo of an infant that looked familiar.  The writing next to it said, "Kenneth Richard Hutchinson was born at 1:15 AM on August 28, 1943, to parents Richard and Lorraine Hutchinson, in Duluth, MN.  He weighed five pounds and six ounces.  He got bronchitis within a month after birth and was hospitalized for three days, and then released.  Upon holding the newborn for the first time, Richard declared, 'He's going to be the strongest, brightest, and most successful Hutchinson ever!" 

Starsky smiled grimly at the dreams of young parents, who had no control over their child's independence as he grew.

While hearing Lorraine's distant voice on the phone, he put the rest of the items back in the box, and moved to the next one.

Over the next hour, he was thrilled to find three more of Aunt Bessie's scrapbooks.  Then he found a bundle of smaller, diary-shaped books.  He untied the ribbon that held them together, and opened the first one.  It was more of Aunt Bessie's handwriting, and was readily apparent that these were her own personal diaries.  Starsky looked through them until he found one from 1943.  He found an entry where Hutch was born, and then concern for Hutch's health when he was hospitalized.  He knew if he started reading them, he'd be here all night, so he jumped near the back, to mid November.

"I worry about Lorraine as a mother.  She and Richard are rightly proper, but she seems uncomfortable holding her own child.  She seems to defer to Richard a lot, and yet he is hardly equipped to raise a young infant.  They both strike me as perplexed as what they're supposed to do with this young life that's in their charge."

Starsky supposed that it was probably somewhat common for young parents to be "perplexed".  He was intrigued though, and wanted to finish going through the boxes before the day was out.


That night, the guest bedroom had old scrapbooks and diaries stacked along the dresser.  "This is so fantastic, Hutch!" Starsky gushed as he re-sorted the stacks.

Hutch was sitting on the edge of the bed, leafing through one of the scrapbooks.  "I remember Bessie's scrapbooks getting mentioned now and then when I was little.  But eventually, nothing else was ever said about them."

"I guess that's maybe when she died, huh?  Your mom said that her daughter kept them up for a while, but she probably didn't have the same commitment to them.  Man, this is such a goldmine!"

Hutch looked up and smiled warmly.  "I'm glad you've found what you came for, partner."

"Yeah, it's just going to take me a while to read and absorb it all."

Hutch shrugged, "At least there's no hurry, huh?  Doesn't sound like Mom is worried about getting anything back.  She'll probably never even notice if you never return them."

"She said she alerted everyone coming tomorrow to bring their scrapbooks and stuff on the family, if they have anything.  The relatives she got a hold of said they would look."

"Good."  Then Hutch asked, "So, you think you're up to meeting some fifteen relatives tomorrow?"

Starsky smiled.  "Sure."


It was mid morning and most of the relatives had arrived.  Hutch was sitting on the wrought iron bench in the backyard, interacting with various kin, while Starsky joined two teenage boys and a young adult in a game of touch football. 

Starsky had been introduced as Hutch's partner, and obviously everyone had been prepped on what that meant, since nobody asked for clarification.  He did sense the disapproval of some as they shook his hand, but others seemed indifferent, and a few appeared intrigued by such an unusual relationship within the family.

After playing nearly an hour, Starsky realized that it was asking a lot himself, even in as good a shape as he was, to keep up with those from the younger generation.  He was sweating and panting from running around the yard, and finally had to call a halt.  A boy of twelve eagerly agreed when invited to take his place.

Hutch was still surrounded by a group of kin, so Starsky turned to the cooler to extract a beer.  The large grill was getting warmed up by Richard and Jeffrey on the patio.  Jeffrey had short dark hair and was of medium build.  He seemed as distantly joyless as Lanette, and Starsky got the impression that hanging out with the in-laws wasn't his favorite past time.  He'd greeted Starsky and Hutch both with a terse hello.

The back sliding glass door opened, and Lorraine looked up and said, "Look who's here!"

A thirtyish couple walked in, with a child of about ten.  Since Starsky was closest, Lorraine said, "Meet David Starsky, Ken's partner.  David, this is Tony and Sheila.  She's Ken's cousin on Richard's side.  And little Jarrod."

Starsky shook hands with each in turn.

Sheila brought out a manila folder from her oversized purse.  "Here's copies of one of Aunt Bessie's journals we found."

Starsky accepted them.  "Terrific!  Thank you so much.  That's so great of you to get copies made on such short notice."

Tony said, "I own a copy service, so it wasn't any problem."

"Great.  I'll go put these up in our room, so I don't lose them."  Starsky turned to go into the house.  None of the other relatives had mentioned anything about journals or related items, so he was all the more touched that these newest arrivals had bothered.

After coming back down the stairs, he found a young woman in the kitchen.  He remembered that her name was Gretchen, and she was married to a cousin on Hutch's mother's side.  She had long brown hair past her shoulders, bright red lipstick, and was wearing a polka-dotted dress that accented her trim figure.  She was filling a glass with water when he entered the kitchen.

"Hello," she said.

"Hi, Gretchen."

"I know it's weird, but I prefer the tap water."

Starsky leaned back against the counter and took a sip of his beer.  He was enjoying the cooler temperature of the kitchen, since it was well over eighty degrees outside.

She sipped from her newly filled glass and turned to look at him with her bright green eyes.  "So, you and Ken are really in a relationship together?"


"That seems like such a waste," she said, her tone pleasant, despite the words.  "What, did you guys, like, get burned by girls once, and that turned you off the gender forever?"

"Nothing like that," Starsky said.

"I know Ken wasn't gay, or whatever you call it, when he was younger.  Something must have changed in him.  Not that you wouldn't be quite a catch -- for a woman, at least."

He found her words cautiously flattering.  "Well, it's a long story.  But we've become everything to each other over a period of years.  We were cop partners, you know.  Detectives."

"Nothing against your relationship, but I can't help but wonder if one night with the right woman might change your minds."

Gently, Starsky said, "We've both had some wonderful women in our lives.  But we always ended up treating each other as what's most important."  He sipped his beer.

Gretchen sighed.  "Whatever floats your boat.  It just seems like, with so many women out there looking for a good man, that it ought to be against the law for two good-looking guys to give themselves to each other."

"Well, if love accounts for anything, we're both where we most want to be."

She seemed willing to let it go at that, though Starsky suspected she didn't believe the sincerity of their relationship.

Richard pushed the sliding glass door open.  "Time to get the hotdogs and burgers on the grill."

Starsky turned to the refrigerator to assist in gathering the food.


As Hutch sat on the bench in front of the flower garden, he realized he was stuffed and had over-eaten.  He was glad to see that Starsky was back throwing the football, and now the game had expanded to four members on each team, that tried to make the best of running, throwing, and catching, while maneuvering around little groups of relatives talking to each other.

Hutch sipped his beer.  An aunt was sitting beside him, but she was engaged in conversation with another aunt, who preferred to stand next to the bench.  Lanette had been moving around to various relatives, and had seemed to be avoiding him and Starsky, beyond introducing them to Jeffrey.  Hutch had met Jeffrey once before, at his and Lanette's wedding many years ago. Jeffrey had been scarce on the few subsequent visits Hutch had made to Minnesota.

As Hutch looked around at all the people milling about the large yard, he thought, This is my familyFor better or worse.  His eyes were drawn to Starsky, who was purposely running too slow to catch a youngster that was sprinting with the football.  My dearest family.  My life.  He took another sip of beer, still watching.  Damn, he looks good out there.  It was so heartening to see Starsky enjoying himself, bringing out some of the childlike playfulness that hadn't had much opportunity for expression in recent years.  He needs to be around young people.  Hutch wasn't sure how they could go about facilitating that, once they got back home.

Hutch finished off the beer, wondering if he was in any shape to join the football game. 

Starsky ran to Hutch's side of the yard, his eyes on the football that was thrown from a long distance.  It looked like it was over-thrown, and Starsky kept running backwards.

Hutch's heart clenched when he realized where Starsky was headed.  "Starsk!  The well!"

Others joined in.  "Watch out!!"  "The well!"

Starsky jumped up and grabbed the ball.  He came down against the old well, brushing it with a leg, which threw him off balance.  His right arm fell against the cement rim, the football tumbling to one side.

Hutch raced over to him.  "Starsk!"

Starsky's face was grimaced as he held his arm.  "Damnit!"

Others were starting to gather around, but Hutch got there first, kneeling.  "Starsk?  Easy, buddy."  He squeezed his shoulder.  "Can you let me see?"  Starsky was cradling his arm.

"It's busted," Starsky muttered, holding it close to his body.  "Damn, I forgot about the well."

Richard's voice broke through the crowd.  "Does he need an ambulance?"

"No, no ambulance." Starsky said with grit teeth.  "It's just a broken arm."

Hutch rubbed along Starsky's shoulders.  "Easy."  He looked up at his father.  "We need to take him to the emergency room."

"Sorry, David," a worried teenager's voice said.  "I didn't mean to throw it that far."

Starsky's managed a grim smile as he looked up.  "Not your fault.  I should have realized the well was there.  Don't go apologizing for a having a great throwing arm."

Hutch put his arm around Starsky, but his attention was on the crowd.  "Can somebody get something for a sling?"

"I will," a female voice said, and some in the crowd started to move away.

Hutch placed his other hand against Starsky's chest.  "Try to take it easy, buddy.  Take deep breaths, if you can."

"At least, it's my right arm."

"He's left handed?" Richard asked.

"Yeah," Hutch replied.  "I think some aspirin would be good, too, for the pain."

"I'll get it," Gretchen said, and she turned quickly back toward the house.

A male cousin piped up, "I can take you guys to the emergency room.  I was going to drop in later, anyway, and see my old high school buddy, Phillip Andrews.  He's a nurse in pediatrics, and he had to work today."

Lanette said, "Oh, I'd love to visit Phillip, too."

As the conversation ensued, and more joined in, the decision ended up being made to take two cars to the hospital.

A towel was brought, and made into a sling that Hutch tied behind Starsky's neck, so his arm was hoisted high enough to be above his heart.  Hutch then gave him some water, and prompted him to swallow down Extra Strength Tylenol.

"Okay," Hutch said, one arm still around Starsky, and another supporting him at his waist, "you ready to try and stand, partner?"


They moved as one, and Starky was soon on his feet.

"How bad is the pain?" Hutch asked as they took slow steps away from the well.

"Throbbing like crazy."

Hutch hugged him closer.  "I'm sorry, buddy."  He realized that Lanette was walking a few steps ahead of them.

"I'm sorry I ruined the picnic."

"It's not ruined.  It was winding down, anyway."  The grill was being cleaned up, and Lorraine headed the task of beginning to put supplies away.  Then Hutch chuckled softly. "Maybe you ruined dessert a little bit."

In the front of them, Lanette called to Jeffrey, "I'm going to the hosptial with the others to see an old high school friend."

Jeffrey responded with a disapproving frown.

Richard drove his Cadillac with Lanette in the passenger seat, and Starsky and Hutch in the back.  Hutch was snuggled up close to Starsky, trying to offer his body as support, and periodically squeezing Starsky's shoulder or his knee reassuringly.

Richard looked in his rearview mirror and said, "David, I think you have the honors of being the first person ever injured by the well.  It's been there as long as this house has been in existence."

"Terrific," Starsky muttered, and Hutch managed a soft laugh.

Hutch then realized, "I guess this is the first time either of us has been injured since our cops days."  He squeezed Starsky's knee.  "Feels weird, doesn't it?"

"This means I'm going to be in Darla's winner's circle photo with a cast on."

Hutch scolded, "Your arm is throbbing, and you're thinking about your girlfriend." 

Starsky quipped, "We all have our priorities."

Richard asked, "When is she running again?"

"Supposedly by the end of this coming week," Hutch replied.  "That's the last we've heard.  The trainer always calls on Tuesdays, so we should pretty much know by then."

Starsky suddenly shifted on the seat and squeezed his eyes shut.

Hutch moved his hand from Starsky's knee to brush it across his forehead, which felt damp with sweat.  "Ah, buddy, is that Tylenol not helping at all?"

"Don't think it's kicked in yet," Starsky replied with grit teeth.

Hutch cupped the other side of Starsky's cheek and pulled toward himself.  "Come on, lean against me," he said in his gentlest tone.  "We probably should have put some ice on it."

Starsky shifted just enough so that he could rest his weight against Hutch, his head using Hutch's chest for a pillow.

"That's my buddy."  Hutch rubbed along his shoulders.  "Just like old times, huh?"  He found it calming to himself to comfort Starsky thus.

When Hutch glanced up, Lanette had turned to look at them.  She asked, "Do you think the bone is out of place?"

Starsky gasped, "Don't know.  Just hurts."

Hutch said, "I haven't tried to look at it, but I can see that it's swelled up quite a bit.  We'll find out soon enough at the hospital.  It's just a few more blocks, right?"

"Yes," Richard said.  "At least there isn't much traffic, since this is a holiday."

Lanette said, "I bet the emergency room is busy, though.  A July 4th holiday probably means lots of grill accidents and drunken fights."

Hutch noted, "Hopefully, the drunken fights won't start until tonight."


The emergency room was indeed busy.  But most of the injuries didn't appear to be serious.  Starsky was taken to a treatment room in less than an hour.  Hutch stayed with him through the initial exam and the application of an ice pack, and when he was wheeled down to x-ray.  The impact against the well had moved the bone slightly out of place, so Starsky was given a shot of lidocaine, and the attending physician manipulated his arm until the bone was set.

Once they started casting it, a more relaxed Starsky told Hutch, "Why don't you go on and socialize with your family.  I'm in good hands here."  He smiled at the doctor and the two nurses.

Hutch squeezed his hand.  "Yeah, okay.  We'll either be in the main waiting room, or waiting out front."

"I'll find you."

Hutch left and moved toward the front entrance.  He saw some family members standing outside talking, but his father was still in the waiting room.

"How is he?" Richard asked, standing.

"He'll be fine.  The cast will just go up to his elbow.  They're doing the cast now, so he'll probably be done within an hour." 

"I'm sure glad it wasn't anything more serious."

"Yeah.  Starsk and I have seen enough of 'serious' in our cop careers."

Richard nodded toward the entrance.  "I guess we should go out and join the others.  Their friend Phillip couldn't talk long, since he was busy with his shift."

Hutch had been a couple of years ahead of that graduating class, so hadn't known Phillip hardly at all.  A couple of his cousins' families had lived in Dulith during those years, and had played community sports with some of the kids from his and Lanette's high school.

As Hutch and Richard emerged into the sunshine, it sounded like most of the conversation, from the five relatives that had split into two groups, was about their old high school days.  They all looked up.

"How is he?" Lanette asked.

"They gave him lidocaine to set the bone, so he's not feeling any pain right now.  He's getting a cast put on, so it shouldn't be too much longer."  Hutch didn't bother mentioning that Starsky had told that doctor that he wanted his fingers kept as free as possible from the cast, so he could still type on his computer.

Someone said, "Lewis feels awful that he threw the ball so far."

Hutch smiled reassuringly.  "Tell him not to worry about it.  This isn't anybody's fault.  Starsk feels bad enough for interrupting the picnic."  Then he said, "So, you guys didn't get much chance to talk to Phillip, huh?"

"Nah, he was too busy for more than a quick chat.  It was good to see him though."

They didn't seem particularly anxious to head back to the house, and the conversation again turned back to reminiscing about old times.

Hutch and his father sat on a wooden bench.

Hutch and Starsky's flight reservations were for tomorrow afternoon.  Hutch had thought he'd spend most of the day showing Starsky more sites around the area, but now he realized that he was probably going to be relegated to nursing duties the next few days.

Thank God it's not anything more seriousIt was sobering to think of just how serious past injuries and illnesses had been.  And here he was, sitting next to his father, who was likely to be dead from cancer within the next couple of years.

"How are you feeling, Dad?"

Richard rested back against the bench.  "Pretty good.  I've lost some weight, and I can tell I'm a little weaker, but there really isn't any pain."

"That's good.  I'm glad."

"It'll be a while yet before they put me in the ground."

"How do you think Mom is handling it?"

"I don't think she's capable of coming to terms with being a widow.  She'll cross that bridge when she has to."

Hutch didn't know what to say to that.  His mother had never been one to indulge in speculations.  Especially those with unhappy endings.  She much preferred to deal with windows dressings, where she could control the exterior appearance, rather than what was hidden behind those windows.

Richard went on dryly, "I don't ever talk to her about it.  She doesn't want to hear it.  She'll face up to it when she has to."  He glanced over at Hutch.  "I'm glad you aren't afraid of me talking to you about it, Ken."  He swallowed thickly.

Hutch felt a wave of emotion brewing.  He nodded back, his throat tight.  Then he reached over and squeezed his father's hand.

The two groups looked like they were breaking up.  Lannie went over to the wooden bench.  "What are you guys doing tomorrow?"

Hutch replied, "I'm not sure.  I thought I'd show Starsk around the area some more, but I don't know how he'll feel."

She shrugged.  "It's just a broken arm.  It's not like it's a major injury."

"There's still pain involved."  Hutch heard the testiness in his own voice.

She snorted.  "You guys baby each other so much, it's unbelievable."

Hutch was on his feet before he had a chance to think.  "He's earned it, dammit!"  He jabbed his finger at Lannie.  "Don't you ever, EVER, try to denigrate him for his way of dealing with pain!  Not until you've had your body ripped open by bullets.  Not until you've had every major bodily function start to fail."  He felt his face heat, and was vaguely aware of the others staring at him, but he had no desire to stop speaking his mind.  "Not until you've had your heart re-started by electrical charges.  Not until you've been poisoned with a fatal twenty-four hour drug and know that every minute that passes by is one minute less that you have to live.  Not until you've been kidnapped by a bunch of brain-washed goons who burn you and want to cut your insides out for a morning sacrifice.  Not until you've had your leg torn up so badly in an accident that you've been told you'll never walk correctly again."  Hutch drew a deep, deep breath and dropped his hand.

Lannie stood staring at him, her mouth open.

From where Richard sat on the bench, he quietly said, "For God's sake, Lanette, quit trying to make their relationship into something as pitiful as your and Jeffrey's."

Lanette's gaze darted to their father, her mouth still open.

More calmly, but with his voice still elevated, Hutch said, "I love him with all my heart, all my being.  Loving him means I want him to feel as comfortable and happy as possible every single moment of every single day."  His voice firmed.  "I'll baby him as much as I damn well please."  As her stunned gaze returned to him, Hutch said more quietly, "I'm sorry it bothers you so much, but your jealous objections aren't going to make us love each other any less."  He stepped away.  "I've got nothing else to say to you, Lannie."

She moved toward the uncomfortable group of relatives.  "I'll go home with you, Roger."

"Hey, everybody," said a cheerful voice.

Hutch turned and saw Starsky standing in front of the hospital entrance, his casted arm in a sling, and his other hand holding a group of papers.  Hutch moved over to him.  "Hey," he said, reaching to squeeze Starsky's shoulder.

There were murmurs of greetings and goodwill from other family members.

Somebody said, "We're headed back to the house."

Starsky looked up at Hutch, "What's wrong?"  He'd obviously picked up on the tenseness of the atmosphere.

They turned to start walking along the sidewalk, as the other relatives moved toward the parking lot, leaving Richard on the bench.

Hutch snorted.  "I lost my cool."  He reached to Starsky's hand and squeezed it.  "And I don't feel the least bit bad about it."  In fact, it felt that a weight had fallen from his shoulders.

"Dare I guess at who?"

"You can guess."


"Yep.  She made another crack about us babying each other, so I had a few words to say."

"Which, no doubt, didn't make a bit of a dent in her armor."

"Not a bit.  Hell, buddy, even Dad is annoyed with her.  He made a comment about her trying to turn our relationship into something as pitiful as hers and Jeffrey's."

"Ah, Hutch, I'm sorry."

"I'm not."

"Speaking of your Dad, we just going to walk back home and leave him here?"

Hutch turned them around to move back toward the hospital entrance, where the bench was.  "I think he's enjoying sitting in the sun and being away from all the ruckus."  Then he said, "Damn that felt good, saying what was on my mind."

"She does have a way of getting under one's skin.  Kind of sad, though."

"I'm tired of feeling sorry for her," Hutch admitted.  "Trying to get in her good graces.  Next time, if there is one, she's going to have to be the one making all the effort."  He slipped his arm around Starsky.  "How does it feel?" 

"Okay for now.  But we need to stop and get a prescription filled for painkillers.  The Doc said I can get it at the grocery store a couple of blocks away.  It's open today."


A few of the family members had left, once they returned to the house.

The Fourth of July cake was missing a few pieces, and Lorraine was happy to remove the plastic covering again, and bring the ice cream back out of the freezer, to indulge those who had just returned from the hospital, or had otherwise wanted to wait.

While Hutch stayed behind on the patio to help with serving dessert, Starsky took a seat at the wrought iron bench.  He carefully removed his arm from the sling and propped his elbow on the back of the bench to keep it elevated, per the doctor's instructions.

Lanette was eating cake and talking to another woman, where they both stood between the bench and the well.

Starsky studied his sister-in-law.  Despite everything, he still felt compelled to reach some kind of understanding with her.  To reach some sort of connection, however thin and fragile.

When the two women seemed to pause in their conversation, he called, "Hey, Lanette?"

Lanette turned to look at him, and then the other woman took their empty paper plates and began walking back toward the house.  Lanette moved over to Starsky.

"Will you sit down?" he asked.

She did.

Starsky said levelly, "I guess Hutch blew up at you, huh?"

She shrugged.  "He's always had a temper."

"Not in recent years," Starsky noted.  "It takes a lot these days for something to make him mad.  We don't see much in our lives now to make us angry."

She shook her head.  "You two are so protective of each other.  What do you think you're going to do when you someday have to be without each other?"

Starsky wasn't sure if she was talking about death, or about their relationship some day disintegrating.  He decided it didn't matter.  "We work very hard at making sure we'll never be without each other.  We spent a lot of very dangerous years on the street, keeping each other alive."  Starsky shifted, getting to what he really wanted to say.  "Since I've known your brother, he's been shot in the shoulder, he was on the verge of death from the plague that hit our city a few years back and was hospitalized for over two weeks, he's been trapped under a car for two days with a broken leg, and he's been through something else really, really awful that it's not my place to talk about.  He's even had botulism.  He's had his heart ripped out by divorce, and had it ripped out again when a woman he loved dearly was murdered.  And yet, after all of that, I think if you asked him what the greatest pain is he's ever suffered, he'd say it was when he was sitting at my bedside, thinking he was going to lose me.  That happened twice -- once when I was gunned down, and once when i was hospitalized over a month from a deadly virus."

She lowered her gaze, and seemed uncertain of what to say.

Starsky pressed quietly, "Your brother's love for me has cost him a lot.  But he's never run away from all the pain I've caused him.  He's never let it make him hard or cold.  He's never walled me off, no matter how much I've unintentionally hurt him."  His voice softened further.  "You shouldn't judge him for wanting to hold on so much.  He comes by it honestly.  We both do.  I want to love and hold him, too, for the smallest hurts, because I've witnessed some of the big, big hurts he's suffered.  He's had far more than his share.  I'll comfort any pain in him, no matter how minor, any way I can."

Finally, she looked up, and shrugged again.  "Whatever works for you two."

Starsky supposed that was the best sentiment he could hope for. 


Starsky looked over at the patio.

Hutch indicated the picnic table.  "Cake?  Ice Cream?"

Starsky considered how his stomach felt.  Ice cream sounded soothing.  He called back, "A little ice cream.  Vanilla with chocolate syrup."

After Hutch nodded, Starsky turned his attention back to Lanette.  He resisted the urge to reach out and push a lock of hair back from her face.  "You know, since it bothers you so much to see Hutch and me show affection for each other, I'd be willing to bet that there's been a time in your life when you were really, really hurt, or really, really scared, and nobody was there for you to hold onto.  So, since you didn't get to have anyone to soothe your hurt and fear away, it bothers you to see other people get to have that."

She shifted to settle more fully into the bench, though she seemed restless.  "So, now you're an amateur psychologist."

"Just seems to make sense to me."

She was thoughtful.  Then, "There wasn't any particular thing."

"Then I guess you've felt like that throughout your life."

"We weren't raised to expect anyone to be there for emotional stuff.  So, we learned not to have emotional stuff."

"Yeah," Starsky said regretfully, "I know."  But he was at least glad that she was thinking about it.

"Here you go."  Hutch stopped beside the bench and held out a dish with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, sparingly covered with chocolate syrup.

Starsky accepted it with his left hand and started to shift.  "I guess I need to learn how to do this."

"Here, I'll hold the bowl, so you don't have to move your arm."  Hutch took the dish back, and forced himself into the small space between Starsky and the end of the bench.

Starsky took the spoon and scraped off part of the ice cream.  He inserted it into his mouth, and enjoyed the flavor and coolness before swallowing.  "Um," he approved.

"You know, buddy, with all the ball playing you were doing today, you probably need a hot soak in the tub tonight."

Starsky nodded and took another spoonful of ice cream.  "That sounds good.  It'll be easier with my cast, too, since I can prop it on the edge of the tub."  Though Lanette was still sitting on the other side of him, Starsky decided to ask, "You gonna bathe me?"

Hutch grinned.  "If you want."  Then, more seriously, "I guess you'll need help, huh?"

"It'll certainly be easier."


They all looked up to see Jeffrey on the porch.  He said, "We need to get going."

She called back, "In a bit!"

He scowled and turned away.

When Starsky swallowed the last scoop of ice cream, he said, "Oh, hey, we need to show the tape of Darla before everybody leaves."

Hutch called back toward the porch, where most of the relatives had gathered, "We'll be showing the tape of our racehorse in a few minutes, if anyone is interested."

When that brought a few questioning glances, Lorraine and Richard began to explain about Darla.

Lanette asked, "How is Nick doing?"

Starsky was surprised that she asked.  "I haven't talked to him in a couple of months.  Last I heard, he's still working for the delivery service."  Starsky hesitated, then said, "I'm sure he'd appreciate a call from you."  If he thought she had a healthy marriage, he wouldn't have suggested it.

She shrugged.  "Not much point."

Starsky decided not to press.

Lanette stood.  "Since I've already seen the video tape, I guess we should get going.  Jeffrey won't be interested."

Starsky put the empty dish in his lap, and reached to grab her hand.  He squeezed it.  "Okay.  Be seeing you."

"Bye," she said, looking at Starsky, and then briefly glancing at Hutch, before moving off.

Hutch nodded at her.  After she walked away, he noted, "It looked like you two were talking earlier."

"Little bit.  Of course, it was me who did most of the talking."

"Did it do any good?"

Starsky shrugged.  "Who knows.  But at least it wasn't anything hostile."


Darkness had fallen a while ago, and all the guests had left.  Hutch had given Starsky fifteen minutes by himself in the bathtub, so he could relax and enjoy the heat of the water.  Now, he knocked once on the bathroom door and said, "It's me," before entering with an empty pitcher, a fresh wash cloth, and a bottle of shampoo.

"How are you doing?" Hutch asked as he knelt next to the tub.

Starsky was resting against the back of the tub.  "The water's starting to cool off."

Hutch put the washcloth into the water.  "Let me clean you up and wash your hair as quick as I can.  Or did you already do some washing?"

"No washing.  I was just enjoying relaxing here."

Hutch grabbed the wet washcloth, and found the bar of soap.  "Then don't whine about how fast I go."

He was very efficient as he washed all about Starsky's face, torso, and armpits.  He then dipped down to his private areas, and realized that he felt different about it as he touched all those intimate places with the washcloth.  It was something that was intended to be soothing, rather than sexy.

Starsky said, "I'll probably be out of commission while I'm on the painkillers."

"Then we'll have to make up for it when you're better"  Hutch tugged on Starsky's arm.  "Lean forward, so I can do your back."

Starsky obeyed, and as Hutch washed his neck, and then started down his back, he said, "Despite hitting the well, it was a pretty fun day, all in all.  I liked playing football with everyone.  You should have joined in."

"Well, you know, a lot of the relatives hadn't seen me in a long time, so I felt I should be available to talk to them."  Hutch put the cloth aside and grabbed the pitcher.  "I'm going to wet your hair.  Tilt your head down."  He scooped up bath water and poured it over Starsky's head.  He drenched the hair a second time, and then grabbed the shampoo.

As he massaged Starsky's suds-filled scalp, Hutch said, "I liked watching you play, and seeing how much fun you were having."


"Yeah.  It brought back memories of how playful you used to always be," Hutch said fondly.  "So much like a kid.  I always loved that about you.  It made me smile."

Starsky snorted.  "And gave you somebody to boss and mother."

Hutch shrugged with a laugh.  "I guess."  He scooped up more bathwater.  "Rinsing now."  He poured the water over Starsky's head, using his other hand as a squeegee to encourage the soap out.  "Seeing you today reminded me of how youthful you can be.  It brings out a wonderful side in you, when you're around young people."  He did a second rinsing.

After the water had cascaded off his scalp, Starsky said, "Funny you should say that."


"Yesterday, when I found some of your baby clothes in the attic, your mother was saying that she'd kept them for any grandchildren.  She seemed kind of sad about the fact that there weren't going to be any."

Hutch placed a towel over Starsky's head and began rubbing along his hair.

Starsky continued, "So, I said that, if the laws start to change, maybe you and I might consider adopting a child some day.  She said it wouldn't be the same, because it wouldn't be carrying on the family line.  And I told her, 'I'm sorry you feel that way.'"

Hutch slowed his drying.  "I didn't know you'd ever thought about that."

"I hadn't.  It just happened to occur to me then -- you know, that it might be possible some day."

Hutch had never considered the idea of fatherhood very seriously.  He'd never longed for it.  He was intrigued by the idea, but, "Seems like that would be really hard on a child -- to have different parents than everyone else.  To be teased about it."  He turned the towel over and continued drying.

"I know.  But maybe by the time we're fifty or something, we'd be ready for something like that, and society would be able to handle it."  Starsky shrugged.  "Anyway, it was just a thought I had."

Hutch took the towel away.  "Wait here, and I'll get your robe and underwear."

Hutch heard Starsky pull the drain as he stepped out into the hall, closing the door behind him.  Richard had just come up the stairs, and Hutch said as a courtesy, "He'll be out in a minute."

Richard asked, "What time is your plane leaving tomorrow?"

"Around three-thirty.  I'm thinking I might show him some other sights before then, depending on how he feels."  Hutch wondered if his father was wanting to spend more time with them.  Or him.

"I've got an appointment for a holiday brunch with some colleagues, so I'll be saying my goodbyes at breakfast."

Hutch nodded, realizing that tomorrow was a national holiday, since the 4th fell on a Sunday. He took a couple of steps toward the guest bedroom, and then abruptly stopped.  "Hey, Dad?"  His father's hand was against his own bedroom door, and he looked up.  Hutch said, "We've had a good time.  Visiting."  He managed a small smile.

Richard seemed to let that sink in.  And then he nodded and moved into his bedroom.


Starsky was in good spirits when they went to bed, but he had a rough night, as his arm got painful, and he and Hutch did their best to rearrange the pillows so it could be elevated, and watched the hours go by until it was time to take more pills.

They then slept in late, and were eager to leave the house after saying their goodbyes to Richard, and enjoy the summer sun while driving around. 

Hutch brought their rental car to a halt a few miles from the city limits.  It was in a semi-rural area, and Hutch had pulled into an inlet, partially surrounded by trees.  He turned off the motor.  "I had my first girl here."

Starsky looked over at him, sunglasses over his eyes.  "Yeah?"

"Yep.  Martha Dilling."

"How old were you?"

"It was two days after my seventeenth birthday."

"How was it?"

Hutch shrugged.  "Kind of disappointing.  I didn't know what I was doing, of course.  Didn't know how to touch her.  Just plunged in when I found the right place, and it was over before I knew it.  We both were still mostly dressed."

"You were in your car?"

"No.  We got out."  Hutch nodded at the grassy area they were facing.  "I had a blanket."

"You use a rubber?"

"No.  I took a hell of chance.  I'd intended to buy some, but I was too embarrassed.  She didn't ask me about it."  Hutch remembered, "I think it turned out that she was sterile or something.  Never had kids, the last I heard, after she'd been married a few years."

"How long did you date her?"

"Ah, Starsk, we never really dated.  Her parents were funny about stuff like that, and she was sort of quietly rebellious and I think wanted to do it just to spite her parents, though I'm sure she never told them.  And I wanted to hurry up and get my first time out of the way, so I would be experienced when I had a chance with girls I really wanted."  Hutch suddenly realized, "I used Martha.  I mean, she was plenty willing, but I wanted to do it with her for all the wrong reasons."

"Well, teenage sex is a funny thing."

"Yeah.  We did it one other time a few months later, when I think we were both just hard up."

"You use a rubber then?"

"Yeah."  Hutch snorted.  "Went a little slower, too, because I was more experienced by then."

They were silent for a moment.  Then Starsky asked, "Is this where you brought most of your dates?"

"Pretty much.  A few of us did."

"You want me to be one of your dates?"

Hutch looked over at Starsky with a warm smile.  "I doubt you're up to it."

Starsky shrugged.  "We could just maybe lie around and feel each other up platonically.  Take a nap."

Hutch chuckled.  "We don't have a blanket."

"Don't think it'll matter.  It's not like the ground's wet."

Hutch was intrigued that Starsky was so interested.  "All right."  He opened his door.

Starsky reached over with his left arm to cock the handle on his door.  He tossed his sunglasses onto the dashboard, and then got out.  He'd taken his sling off, so he could prop his elbow against the open car window.

They moved into the glassy area, and down a small slope, where the ground was more dirt than grass.  There were remnants of torn condom packets scattered about.

Starsky said, "Looks like it's still used for same purpose all these years."

"Yeah, it's sort of secluded, with this little hill, when you're lying down."

"Then let's lie down."

Hutch reached to Starsky to help him maintain his balance, as they both slowly knelt.  Then, they careful turned onto their sides, so Starsky's cast wouldn't be against the ground.

Hutch rubbed his hand along Starsky's shirt, as he let the side of his head rest on the ground, mirroring Starsky.

Starsky met Hutch's eye.  "You know what?"


"Whenever you think of this place, I'd rather you remember me, than whatsherface."  Starsky placed his right arm against Hutch's groin, his fingers that protruded from the cast nudging against the denim.

Hutch grunted as he felt himself get interested.  "Don't start something that you can't finish."

Starsky's voice lowered huskily.  "Oh, you're going to finish all right.  See, despite staying under your parents' roof, and despite my arm getting hurt, I want to be able to say that I got fucked in Minnesota."

Hutch closed his eyes and thrust against the fingers and hard cast.  He gasped, "It's going to be a little one-sided, isn't it?"

"Nothing about us is one-sided," Starsky said firmly.  "We both know that gorgeous cock of yours wants to be up inside my ass.  So, that's where it's going.  Only, don't get all the way undressed.  Let's stay true to the spirit of the area."  Starsky's cast moved so that the fingers could loosely grip the waistband of Hutch's jeans.  "Come up here.  Need to get you really, really hard, since we can only use spit."  Starsky licked his lips to make his meaning clear.

Hutch slid along his side until his groin was level with Starsky's mouth.  Starsky was trying to tug down his zipper, and Hutch reached down to complete the task.  He unsnapped his jeans, and pushed the denim and underwear down far enough to pull out his eager cock.

Starsky had raised up enough to reach out with his left hand, and bring it to his mouth.

Hutch gasped as the moist mouth closed around him.  But the beautiful suction was quickly halted, and Starsky instead worked his mouth around it, bathing it in moisture.

Then Starsky gripped it against the roof of his mouth, holding it there with suction, while he maneuvered his left hand down to his jeans and undid the snap.

Hutch was tempted to turn around to help, but this was Starsky's show.

Besides, his cock was loving that mouth which sucked so avidly.

He was starting to get worried that Starsky was doing too good a job, but then he was abruptly released. 

"It's hard enough," Starsky announced.  He rolled over onto his stomach.

Hutch was panting as he grabbed the waist of Starsky jeans and underwear, and pulled them farther down Starsky's thighs.  He was tempted to pull them all the way off, since Starsky couldn't spread his legs very much, but then, he himself couldn't either.

"Be selfish, blondie.  Find the right place and plunge right in."

Hutch's cock throbbed.  He pushed his own jeans and underwear down closer to his knees.  He drooled heavily into his hand, and then brought the spit to Starsky's rear cleavage and felt for the depression.  He drooled into his hand a few more times, as he tried to lubricate the opening.

He straightened and drooled one more time, and then coated his cockhead with the moisture.

"Fuck your date, Hutch."

Hutch stretched out on top of Starsky, while letting an elbow take most of his weight.  He had his cock in hand and ran it along Starsky's cleavage, until he felt the bunched muscle.

He drew a heavy breath and pressed against the sparse moisture.

Starsky opened for him, and Hutch pushed inside.  Oh, yeah.

Starsky seemed to be holding his breath and Hutch forced himself in farther.  Hutch realized that, with their clothing in the way, it couldn't go in very deep.

Starsky sighed heavily, and then grunted.

Hutch began to undulate, careful of slipping out.  Starsky was trying to help, arching his ass up to take more.

Hutch groaned appreciatively when he realized they had the mechanics figured out.  He began to move steadily, pushing in more while not withdrawing very far.

He grunted, enjoying the building sensations, and grasped Starsky's shoulders.  He was peripherally aware that Starsky was being ground into the dirt, and the best way to give him relief was to finish as quickly as possible.

He expressed his building pleasure vocally, letting Starsky hear his grunts as they grew louder.

Starsky growled, "You like fucking my ass, dontcha, Hutch?  Driving that huge cock up in there."

Hutch felt himself hit the peak.  He groaned in dismay that he couldn't last just a little bit longer, and yielded to sensation.

He renewed his grip on Starsky's shoulders, and held still as he wallowed in the wonderful feeling of semen shooting from his body.  "God."

He let himself collapse on top of Starsky.

Starsky released soft chuckle, and then a protesting grunt.

Hutch's fingers now rubbed lovingly along Starsky shoulders, as he shifted to one side, causing their bodies to part.  "Mmmm."  Hutch rested his cheek against a shoulder blade.  He now ran his hand down Starsky's back and stopped along his buttocks.  He patted them.  "You okay?"

Starsky released a heavy breath.  "Need to turn over."

"Hang on."  Hutch maneuvered into a sitting position, while pulling his jeans and underwear back up around his hips.  He took Starsky's shoulder with one hand, and then grabbed his waist with the other.  "Easy does it."

When Starsky rolled over onto his back, there was dirt all along his naked areas.  Hutch began brushing at his skin.  Starsky helped with his left hand, while holding his cast out of the way.

After Starsky was reasonably clear of debris, Hutch hoisted Starsky's clothing back up, and then spent a while making sure the equipment was comfortably inside Starsky's underwear, before snapping Starsky's jeans and zipping his fly.

Hutch then worked with his own closures.  Once decent, he grinned at Starsky's satisfied expression, and then moved closer so that Starsky could rest against him, and put his head on Hutch's shoulder.  Hutch arm went around Starsky's back.

Starsky said, "Bet you don't remember whatsherface, the next to you think about this place."

"Definitely not."  Hutch ran his lips along Starsky's forehead.  

Starsky sighed heavily.  "I'm hungry."

"Fuck you and then feed you."

"Yep.  I like the sound of that."

But Hutch didn't feel like moving just yet.  He didn't feel guilty that he was the only one who got pleasure from their session, but he did want to keep expressing his appreciation, and planted gentle kisses wherever he could reach.

"You know something?"  Starsky asked.

Hutch straightened.  "What?"

"Your relatives were all actually pretty nice.  I mean, I know some didn't like us, but they didn't say anything.  And not one person asked me about AIDS."

"Yeah, me neither.  I guess my father did a good job of letting everyone know how he expected them to behave."

Starsky rubbed his cheek against Hutch's shoulder.  "It's so great that things have turned out the way they have, between you and him."

"Yeah," Hutch said fondly.  He swallowed, then heard the catch in his own voice when he said, "After he's gone, I'm going to miss him."

"Well, hopefully that won't be for a while yet.  He seems to be doing pretty good."

"He told me that he was glad he can talk to me about his cancer, because he really can't talk to anyone else."

Starsky reached up to pat Hutch's chest.  "Ah, Hutch, that's nice. I'm glad."

"Yeah."  Then Hutch snorted.  "How ironic is it that the one relative you and I both had trouble with was Lannie?"

"Yeah.  Though, I'm not so sure that it's trouble, as much as just frustration that she doesn't seem to want to understand us."

"I tried to tell Dad that he should take more of an interest in her, in the time he has left.  He talks like he doesn't know what he's supposed to say to a daughter."

Starsky straightened while sighing heavily.  "Well, who knows, maybe they'll manage to work things about between them, before it's too late."

Hutch took Starsky's upper right arm as they prepared to stand.  "Come on, let's go."

After they'd struggled to their feet, Hutch planted himself in front of Starsky.  He gave Starsky a slow, tender kiss on the lips.  When he pulled back, he murmured, "Thanks for the unexpected favor."

Starsky shrugged.  "You show me where you once got laid, I'm going to make sure you get laid.  By me."

Hutch grinned and led the way back up the hill.


Hutch suggested a seafood restaurant by the shore in Duluth, and Starsky agreed, so Hutch turned the car in that direction.

Starsky was unusually quiet as they drove, and it was hard to see his expression behind the sunglasses.  As they came within the outer city limits, Hutch looked over at him worriedly.  "Are you feeling all right?"

"Yeah.  Just thinking."

"About what?"

"About sexual milestones."

Hutch furrowed his brow at Starsky's seriousness.  "What about them?"

"I was remembering the last time I had sex with a girl."

"Yeah?  Who?"

Starsky grimaced with resignation.  "Kira."

Hutch blinked.  Okay, that made sense.  Starsky was gunned down within a couple of weeks after the incident with Kira.  And he'd been too busy recovering from the shooting, and then from the Herpes-B virus, to bed a girl before they had decided to be all things to each other. 

"What about you?" Starsky wondered.

Hutch didn't want to answer that question, because his mind was racing ahead, trying to find some evidence that what he knew to be true wasn't really true.  Finally, he stalled, "Does it matter?"  Could there have possibly been anyone else, in all that time when Starsky was recovering from one thing or the other?

"Why don't you want to tell me?" Starsky asked.

There was no getting out of this.  Hutch stopped at a light, and then wondered where they could go, because he didn't want to be talking about this at lunch.

Starsky was gazing at him, waiting for an answer.

"We have to talk," Hutch said.  The light was green and he moved the car forward.  He made a right, and then went a few more blocks before reaching a parking lot at a beach front.  Hutch turned off the motor and stared at the steering wheel.  Then he glanced at Starsky.

Starsky was frowning.  "What is it?"

Hutch released a heavy breath and closed his eyes.  Then he looked at Starsky with a grimace.  "Kira was the last woman for me, too."

"What?" Starsky still seemed to be letting the statement sink in.

"That day, at her house...."  Hutch softened his voice.  "That was the last time for me."  He waited a beat.  "You've been the only one since then."

Starsky shifted in his seat.  "How can that be?  I had all kinds of reasons why I couldn't be with a woman.  But you -- "

"I was worried sick about you," Hutch protested.  "You think I could get it up when I was full of worry and grief?"

"No, but -- "

"Afterwards," Hutch interjected, more quietly, "I just -- I just -- I just could never focus on that.  I mean, I was beating the meat plenty of times.  But, to actually want to be intimate with somebody else, after all we'd be through together....."  Hutch sighed so heavily that his cheeks billowed.  He whispered, "It just wasn't in the cards, buddy."

Starsky snorted loudly.  "So.  Kira was the last one for both of us.  That idea gives me the creeps."

Hutch looked away.  "I know."  Then he looked back.  "It's not like there's anything we can do about it."

Starsky blinked, staring at the dashboard.  "I just wish it wasn't true."

"Me, too."  Lamely, Hutch said, "I'm sorry I didn't do anything back then to make it not true.  It's not like I've ever thought about this before."

"Me, neither."

Hutch reached over and squeezed Starsky behind his knee.  "I wish you weren't upset."

"I don't know what I am.  I mean, I know it's not anybody's fault.  It's just the idea..."

"I know."

The were silent a moment.  Then Starsky abruptly reached for Hutch's hand and entwined their fingers.

Hutch's heart lightened with the obvious forgiveness.  He asked, "Are you going to be able to type with your cast?"

Starsky wriggled his fingers that protruded from the plaster.  "I think so.  I'll probably just be a lot slower.  You know, have to do the hunt and peck with this hand."

Hutch nodded.  He had a pretty good idea of what Starsky's first chapter was going to be, after they returned home.


Hutch and I recently found out something about each other that we hadn't realized before.  That in itself was an odd feeling -- that there was something from our cop days that we hadn't known.  It was something startling, though I guess it shouldn't have been.

A couple of weeks are so before I was gunned down in May of 1979, Hutch and me were doing an undercover job at a dance hall, where men paid money to dance with a pretty girl for the evening.  Blonde girls were being murdered, so we had two blonde female cops also working with us, and going with the gentlemen, hoping that the killer would make an appearance, and Hutch or I would be at one of the female detectives' homes to protect her if the killer showed.

In the year before the shooting, Hutch and me had more ups and downs than normal.  In retrospect, maybe it was because something inside of us was trying to get our attention, trying to get us to understand who it was we each really wanted to spend the rest of our lives with.  But if so, we weren't listening.  Instead, we went about are normal lives, but had phases where we seemed to be avoiding each other, or were a little less tolerant of each other's fallibilities.  For a while, it seemed we pulled together and were back on track because of a case involving a witness that got murdered under our protection, involving a dirty judge.  But by the time the dance hall case came around a few weeks later, our relationship had started to get off kilter again.

One of the blonde policewomen was named Kira.  She was beautiful, extremely intelligent, kind, and sensual.  I took a liking to her right away.  Problem was, Hutch also took a liking to her.  And she also took a liking to Hutch, at the same time she was returning my attentions.

I admit it:  I was jealous.  I didn't like those two talking and laughing with each other, even in their undercover roles.  Normally, I'd just back off and feel that, once again, the handsome blond Viking had snagged the woman that both of us were interested in.  But this time, I wasn't so willing to let go.  Plus, Kira was giving me all the signals that she was serious about me when we were together.  In the back of my mind, I was pretty sure that she'd bedded Hutch, and I wanted to put a stop to that.  So, without ever talking to Kira about where our feelings were headed, I told Hutch outright that I was in love with her.  And, when he asked, that she was giving all the signals that she was in love with me.  Though, to be honest, I wasn't really that sure if her feelings about us were as strong as my feelings about us.

I'd like to say that when Hutch left my apartment the morning after I dropped the "in love with" news on him, that I'd won a victory.  But it didn't feel like a victory.  My ego was momentarily soothed, but I've never felt good about making Hutch feel lousy.  But I figured he could take care of himself.

To emphasize my feelings for my woman, I went out and bought her a gift.  I don't even remember what it was. But I had the store wrap it up all nice and pretty, and then I drove over to Kira's house.

Man, was I in for a surprise.  There was Hutch's pathetic old Ford, parked right in front of her house.  Hutch was never one to give in gracefully.  He always had to win.  I was livid that he'd taken my "in love with her" revelation and was throwing it in my face.

So, I go up to the door, and Kira answers it all dressed and sort of nervous, and there's Hutch walking out of her bedroom, looking sheepish and still dressing.

I don't know what I felt strongest -- anger or hurt.  I sort of threw Kira's present at her and reached to the door to walk out.  That's when Hutch made a big mistake.  He came toward me and reached for my arm, his voice all placating.  That's when I snapped.  He'd just drained his balls into my lady, and he had the gall to tell me he was "just" trying to find out how Kira felt, his voice dripping with a "hey, let's all sit down and talk this out" attitude.  I grabbed him and got in a few belly punches, before he pushed me away.  I have to admit, as angry as I was, I really wasn't interested in trying to take him down.  I was a lot more interested in letting him know how much I hurt.  By hurting him.  I was also furious with Kira, but there was no way I was going to hit a woman.  So, Hutch also received the brunt of the anger that I felt toward her.

Then Kira was screaming at us, so we stopped.  And she ordered us out. 

We wanted nothing to do with each other, but we still had to work the case.  It climaxed that night, when we pulled together to swipe a grenade from the killer and throw it out of harm's way before it exploded.

Hutch and I still avoided each other, but in our time part, I guess we each decided what we'd always decided:  Our partnership was what was most important to each of us.  Then Kira called us to meet her at the Pits, without either of knowing the other was going to be there.  More of her games.

And, with that, Hutch and I got back on the same wavelength.  We weren't mad at each other anymore, and we were able to banter back and forth, including after she showed up.

We were both ready for her to choose between us, but we found out later that we both had the same idea -- if she chose me, I was going to enjoy dumping her.  Hutch told me that the same idea had crossed his mind.

But Kira was still too smart for us.  She wanted to be the one playing games with male sex drives, and she wasn't about to be a pawn herself.  So, she refused to choose and, with relief, Hutch and I walked out with our arms around each other.

We agreed to get a twelve pack and go to my place and make up.  Of course, we didn't call it making up.  We called it "watching the game", since the Lakers were playing.

As we slowly got drunk, we agreed that we couldn't figure Kira.  But we very quickly lost interest in talking about her.  We wanted to talk about us.

Hutch admitted that it bothered him that I was so possessive with Kira, especially when she was so clearly at least as equally interested in him.  I mean, we'd often played one-upmanship games with each other, concerning women, but it was always in fun.  It had never produced anger before.  This time it had, because I was being forceful that Kira was mine, and the more forceful I was being, the more Hutch rebelled against the behavior in me that he wasn't accustomed to seeing.

He also told me that he was on the verge of leaving Kira's when she answered yes to his question about loving me.  But then she went to work on him, and it didn't take much for her to make it clear that she wanted him in her bed that morning.  I asked why she was so nicely dressed when I came over, and he said that she had quickly left the bed to shower after they were done, while Hutch had lain there as the afterglow waned, trying to figure out how much what had just happened was going to impact our partnership.

A couple of weeks later, I was gunned down.  Nothing about Kira mattered then.  She did visit me once in the hosptial, and I guess she still felt guilty enough that she thought Hutch needed defending, so she inadvertently confirmed that she was the one that had been the aggressor that morning, and had talked Hutch out of leaving her house.  I don't think she realized how thoroughly we had made up, even after Hutch spent so much time at my bedside.  I don't think her sexual ego was able to handle the idea that she didn't matter.

I never saw her after that, and it wasn't long before she transferred to another precinct. 

What Hutch and I found out recently about each other was that Kira was the last woman we each had sex with.  And that bothered us.  It's taken a while for me to figure out why.  The reason is that it makes her seem somehow important.  Since she caused the biggest fight Hutch and I have ever had -- though, really, it wasn't that bad in the grand scheme of things -- it's troubling to think that she could be that prominent in our memories.  That the last time either of us experienced the pleasures of a woman, it was the same woman.

In light of that, I prefer to look at it a different way.  Whatever it is that makes life work, that makes life tick, that energy or God force or whatever one wants to call it, was trying to get Hutch and me to pay attention to how entrenched we had become in each other's lives, in how we had become so blended into one another, that we both sought out the same woman at the same time.  That blending became so thoroughly complete after all my recovery time, that all we wanted afterward was each other.

When it gets down to it, Hutch is the only person I've been possessive about for any length of time.

He's mine.


Starsky thought that is was a good thing they'd kept the third bedroom empty.  It was now a convenient place to spread out all the journals and other items that he'd returned from Minnesota with.  Of course, most of the old journals didn't apply to Hutch directly, but they gave a glimpse into the Hutchinson past, and everything associated that helped make Hutch the man that he was.  Starsky had laid out the journals and diaries chronologically on the carpet by one wall, so he could read through them in order.

For now, he sat on the carpet and browsed through one of Bessie's diaries.  And then started reading.

"Little Kenneth was fun to watch on the beach today, running around in his little red shorts.  He has a little yellow blanket that he likes to hold onto a lot.  He gets agitated if one tries to take it away from him.  Lorraine has said that she's pregnant with another, though she isn't showing yet.  I think Ken could use a little brother or sister.  Richard and Lorraine hope it's a girl this time."

Starsky heard the door to the garage open down the hall, and then, "Hey, Starsk?"

"In here."

Hutch came down the hall and stood in the doorway.  "Did Mike call?"

"Yep.  Said Darla's doing great.  He tried to get her in for Thursday, but there's so many two-year-olds needing maiden races, that there's no way.  The horses that haven't started yet have priority.  So, he'll try Friday, and then Saturday.  He'll call us as soon as it's a for-sure thing that she's running."

Hutch glanced about.  "I see you've made good use of this room."

Starsky shrugged.  "May as well."

"How's your arm feeling?"

"It doesn't hurt that much.  I'm going to try doing without the pain medicine." 

"Have you made a doctor's appointment to see how it's healing?"

"I need to do that.  Did you stop by the mortgage bank while you were out?"

"Yep, they expect everything to be finalized with the loan this week.  Then we can probably close sometime next week."

"That's great!"

"Yeah.  Oh, and I stopped by the doctor's office about our blood tests, since I was going by there.  They said we should be getting our results in the mail the next week or two.  Of course, they'll call if anything is positive.  Otherwise, they'll be mailed to us."

Starsky nodded.  With how well everything had gone at the family reunion, it seemed less necessary that they get tested for AIDS.  But having proof of their negativity might be beneficial in future circumstances, though he couldn't imagine what those circumstances would be. 

Starsky indicated the diary in his hand, and grinned.  "You remember a yellow blanket you used to carry around?"

Hutch gave him an indulgent smile.  "I have a few memories that go back far enough that I guess I remember holding a blanket.  But not a particular one."

"Your mother mentioned it was really hard to wean you off your blanket.  And now I see where Aunt Bessie mentions it when you were a baby."

Hutch seemed determined to be neutral.  "And?"

"Nothing.  Just wondered if you remember it."

Hutch moved into the room and knelt down.  "So, is your writing on hold while you absorb the Hutchinson past?  To say nothing of your arm making it hard to type?"

"Maybe.  It was really hard typing that last chapter I did, but I wanted to get that out."

"The book is going to be kind of lopsided, if you have a whole lot more about my past than your past."

"Not necessarily.  I can talk to lots of relatives to get stories about my past.  Plus, I already know a lot of family history myself."  Starsky paused.  "It kind of amazes me, though, that I had to find this stuff.  I mean, that nobody mentioned Aunt Bessie, even though they knew I was researching your past."

Hutch shrugged.  "All this stuff was locked up in the attic, buddy.  Nobody's had reason to think anything about it in a long time.  And, you know, my family is more into dealing with the present.  Not looking back and being sentimental about things."

Starsky carefully placed the diary back in its chronological spot.  "You know what's weird?"


"Nobody has hardly anything to say about your mother.  Not that she was as great person, or an interesting person, or a bad person... nothing.  Even while we visited, she just seemed in the background.  Like part of the wallpaper."

Hutch snorted at the last.  "I think she likes it that way.  It frees her up to indulge the things she likes to do or think about.  Nobody expects anything of her."

"So, what does she like to do?"

"Watch TV. Do some knitting.  And, you know," Hutch shrugged elaborately, "she 'goes out'.  Sees men."

Starsky sighed while shaking his head.  "That just seems so weird to me.  The way it's just accepted."

"Well, you know, if she and my father hadn't been able to do that, they'd probably be miserable and long since divorced.  I guess affairs just plain work for some marriages."  Hutch paused a long moment.  "I bet some of your relatives, that you'd never dream of having affairs, have been with other people."

Starsky shifted with discomfort at that idea.

Hutch went on, "Look how shocked we were about the Dobeys.  I sometimes wonder if there really is such a thing as fidelity."

Starsky grimaced.  "Now you sound like Lanette."  He glanced up from the journals.  "And that doesn't say much for us."

Hutch smiled warmly.  "We've always been the exception to all the rules, buddy."

Starsky liked the sound of that.


They were in the office, the next afternoon, working the latest group of employee background checks for their oldest client, when the telephone rang.

Hutch hit the speaker phone.  "Starsky and Hutchinson."

A man's gruff said, "Yeah, I'm looking for someone to tail some employees of mine."

Hutch exchanged a glance with Starsky and automatically said, "We can do that.  I'm Ken Hutchinson, by the way.  What's the problem?"

"They use company vehicles to go out and check the oil fields.  The mileage isn't adding up.  They're going somewhere else on company time, and I want to know where it is."

Starsky asked, "How many vehicles are we talking about?"

Hutch said, "That's Dave Starsky, my partner."

"Hi," the man said. 

"Hi," Starsky replied.  "Who are we speaking with?"

"Stan White.  I'm the manager of an oil company, and I've got foremen using four different trucks to check a total of thirty different wells, and they're racking up too much mileage on those trucks for what they're supposed to be doing.  And I don't have the goddamned time to be tailing them."

"We'll help you with that," Hutch soothed.  "When can we meet with you to discuss it?"

"I'm outside of Camarillo.  I've got too much going on tomorrow.  Friday morning would work.  When can you guys be up here?"

"We can be there by ten.  Will that work?"

"Super.  Ten o'clock Friday morning."

Hutch asked for Stan's phone number and address, and then said, "We'll see you then."  He cut the line.  "That sounds promising."

"Yeah.  I just wonder if the oil wells are nearby or farther away."

The phone rang again.

Hutch hit the speaker button.  "Starsky and Hutchinson."

"Hey, guys.  Darla's in the first race Saturday."

"All right!" Starsky said.

"Who's riding her?" Hutch asked.

"You've got the services of Brad Byrd.  He's sixth in the standings.  I've had him out here every morning, galloping her, so he understands what kind of engine she has."

"Terrific," Starsky said.  "Can you tell us anything else?  Is it a full field?"

"Yep.  Twelve horses.  She's got the number three post position.  Oh, this is a regular maiden race, not restricted to Cal-breds, like the last one was."

"So these are better horses?" Hutch asked.

"Theoretically.  But most are first time starters and there's no reason why Darla can't handle them.  The filly in the two slot, Pix Six, sold for six hundred thousand as a yearling last summer in Kentucky."

"Really?" Starsky asked on a high note.

Hawkins chuckled.  "Yep. She's been training nice, but we'll have to find out Saturday if she's got what it takes to beat Darla."

"Man, I can't imagine spending that kind of money on a horse."

"She has impeccable bloodlines.  But I've seen lots of horses with great bloodlines and fast works that couldn't outrun me or you."

Hutch said, "I guess you don't know until they actually race."

"That's right.  And we know your filly can run.  So, make sure you brush your teeth extra nice for the win photo."

Starsky and Hutch both laughed.

"We'll take that advice," Starsky said.  "Hey, it's great that it's a Saturday.  We might be able to round up quite a few people to come out and cheer her on."

"You do that.  It makes the photographer happy when you order lots of win photos to give to everybody."

Hutch said, "Thanks a lot, Mike.  We'll see you Saturday."  He cut the line.

Starsky was grinning hugely.  "Can't imagine he'd make that crack about brushing our teeth unless he was super confident."

"Yeah.  Hopefully, not overly-confident." 

"Mike doesn't strike me as the overly-confident type."

That was true.  Hutch picked up the phone's receiver.  "Let's start with calling the Dobeys."


On Friday, Starsky and Hutch were at a restaurant outside of Camarillo.  They had met with Stan White for over an hour, as he gave them mileage logs from four trucks the oil company let the foremen use.  From his rough estimate, he felt that it was possible the four foreman were all going to the same non-work place, since the amount of miles each truck was over what White estimated they should be driving each week was approximately the same.

"What do you think?" Hutch asked when they'd given the waitress their lunch orders.

Starsky said, "I'm thinking that White was using the words like 'estimate' and 'approximately' and 'probably' an awfully lot.  So, I think we should first drive the routes the foreman are supposed to be making, and find out exactly how many miles they should be tallying in their mileage logs."

"Yeah, but if he's right and they're all going to the same place -- say, a house of prostitution -- then all we have to do is follow one of them, and then we'll know where they're all going."

Starsky considered.  "Yeah.  But since they only turn in their mileage logs once a week, we don't know if it's one specific day each week that they might be going somewhere.  So, that's going to be a lot of tailing."  Starsky shifted in his seat as a new thought occurred.  "Plus, if we tail these guys a lot, and they're mostly going to oil rigs out in big pastures, we aren't going to be able to just blend in with traffic.  It's not going to take much for them to figure out that they're being followed."

Hutch was thoughtful for a long moment.  "We're probably going to have split up to cut down on all the tailing, and we each rent a different car each day."

Starsky never liked them to split up when they were both working the same case.  "Maybe we should try your idea first.  Just pick one guy.  Tail him for a day, and see if we luck out and get some answers.  Besides, even if nothing exciting happens, it'll at least give us a feel for what an average day is supposed to be like for a foreman."

"Let's mull it over this week, since we have plenty of time to be pin down exactly how we want to go about it."  White had said one of the foreman was scheduled for vacation the upcoming week, and another had to leave town suddenly, due to a death in the family.  So, he had thought there wouldn't be much point in Starsky and Hutch starting the case until the following week.

They were silent a moment, and then Starsky said, "So, we think the whole gang is going to be at the track tomorrow?"

"Yeah, Dobey and Edith and Rosie.  Cal's not interested in coming.  Dobey says he'll be doing the video taping again.  And then Huggy is bringing a date.  I got the impression it's somebody he's serious about."


"Yeah," Hutch said, chucking softly.  "It'll be nice to meet her."

Starsky noted, "I left a message for Meredith, but I haven't heard back from her."  He shifted in is seat.  "What about our bowling partners, Daryl and Sue?"

"They're going to be away for the weekend."

"That's too bad.  Everyone knows it's the first race, right?  So, they'll be there in time."

"Yep.  I told them all it's a one 'clock post time."  A thought occurred to Hutch and he lowered his voice.  "Starsk, since Darla is probably going to be really low odds, why don't you ease up betting on her?  Even if she wins, you're going to get hardly anything back.  And if she loses, that's going to be a big loss on top of the loss last time."

Starsky looked sheepish.  "I just like the idea of backing our horse."

Hutch tried logic.  "It's not like she's going to know the difference.  Besides, wouldn't it be honoring her just as much to just buy a two dollar win ticket?  Then, if she wins, you can frame it."

Starsky blinked.  Then he said thoughtfully.  "Oh,  Yeah.  That's a good idea."  He brightened.  "That would be cool -- to someday have a wall full of frames with her win tickets and winner's circle photos."

Hutch nodded, relieved.


Starsky released a heavy breath, as his hand gripped the railing in front him.  They were in Mike Hawkins's box, while the horses were warming up for the first race.  Dobey was filming, Edith standing beside him in a pink dress.  Twelve-year-old Rosie was in jeans and a powder blue shirt.  They had invited her into the paddock with them before the race, and she had gushed at how beautiful the horses were.  Huggy had caught their attention upon arriving at the track, briefly introduced them to his girlfriend, Annette, and then turned down their invitation to watch the race from Hawkins's box.  He stated that he and Annette would rather hang out on the rail "with the common folk".

Starsky had watched as a red blinker hood was placed over Darla's head while she was saddled. She also had neatly wrapped, thin bandages on her hind legs that went halfway up to her ankles.  She was prancing around more nervously than she had last time, and Hawkins had assured that all it meant was, "She's ready to go."  Starsky had also kept an eye on Pix Six, the $600,000 filly, that would be breaking from the gate at Darla's inside.  She was a beautiful chestnut, with no white markings, and while more petite than Darla, announced "class" with every twitch of her muscles.

Since Starsky wanted to grip the rail -- or something -- with his good hand, and had a sling on his other arm, he'd given Hutch the binoculars. 

Hutch now lowered them.  "Darla's still favored at three to two odds, but Pix Six is right behind her at two to one."

Dobey said, "Almost every tip sheet picked Darla, because everyone knows she should have won last time.  But a few picked that expensive filly.  It seems everyone expects it to be a two horse race.  I hope one of the others doesn't surprise."

Starsky stomach churned at that idea.  As he glanced at the starting gate set near the beginning of the backstretch, he noted, "The starting gate isn't as far back as last time."

Hawkins was on the other side of Hutch, and said, "This is five and a half furlongs. The last race was six furlongs."

"So, it's shorter?" Starsky asked worriedly.

"Yes, but that won't be a problem.  Going way wide beat Darla last time, not the distance."

Starsky hoped that was true.  It would be such a heartbreaker if Darla ran out of ground again, before the finish line.  He watched as the line of twelve horses began to move behind the gate.  "How does she look, Hutch?"

"Sweating at little, but they all are.  It's a muggy day."

Starsky let go of the rail to squeeze Rosie's shoulder.  "Can you see okay?" 

"Yeah.  When is the race going to start?"

"They're starting to load right now.  It'll take a while because there's twelve, and since most haven't raced before, some might act up, because they're nervous.  When the race starts, look for the dark horse with a red hood and a jockey with red silks.  That's Darla."

Dobey renewed his grip on the camera.  "Hopefully, she'll break better than last time."

Edith said, "This is really nerve-wracking.  I don't know how people do this all the time."

Starsky felt he was even more nervous than last time, because there was a much higher degree of expectation.  He said, "We appreciate you all coming out to cheer her on, regardless of what happens."

"Damnit," Hutch said, the binoculars to his eyes.  "That last filly is throwing a fit."

Starsky trained his eye on the backstretch, behind the gate, and saw the one remaining horse spinning around.  Once she stopped, assistant starters began to encourage her toward the gate, and she planted her feet and leaned backwards.  She was turned in one direction, and then the other, and then taken back toward the gate.  She half reared and spun again.

Hawkins also had his binoculars trained on the gate.  "It's never good when the inside horses have to stand in the gate this long.  Their muscles start to cool down.  If it takes much longer, they'll unload everybody and start over."

Starsky put his good hand to his stomach, and nudged his sling against Hutch.  "Oh, God, I can't stand this."

Hutch clasped his hand around Starsky's fingers that protruded from the cast.  Then he said, "There she goes" as the last horse finally loaded.

The announcer quickly said, "All in line."  Then, as the gates opened, "They're off!  It's Pix Six breaking on top."

Starsky tried to make sense of the crowd of horses behind Pix Six, and Hutch said excitedly, "She's moving up."

The horses started to spread out as they moved down the backstretch, and Starsky could clearly see Darla emerging from the crowd of horses behind Pix Six.

"She's second, buddy!"  Starsky felt his fingers squeezed.

"Come on, Darla!" Starsky cheered.

As they entered the turn, Darla was at Pix Six's saddle.  Most of the rest of the field were bunched, three lengths back.

Hutch called out, "Make that turn, baby!"

The announcer said,"Pix Six is trying to hang onto that lead, and Deep Waters is right there with her!"

"Come on, Darla!" Starsky called.

Hutch put the binoculars down. "Come on, baby!"

The two leading fillies straightened into the homestretch, with the rest of the field starting to fan out behind them.

Starsky saw Byrd move his arms, and Darla strode forward and went by Pix Six, as the roar of the crowd reached a crescendo.  A chill went up his spine.  "YES! YES!"

"She's gonna to win, Starsk!"

Edith gasped, "Oh, my, look at her."

Starsky thought it was the most amazing sight he'd ever seen in his life, as Darla drew clear of the tiring Pix Six.  Other horses were rallying, but none were closing on her.

The announcer said, "Dig deeep into your pockets to collect your money, folks, because here's your favorite, Deeep Waters, winning by four lengths."

As Darla went under the wire, Starsky leapt at Hutch.  "She won!  She won!"

Hutch took a moment to wrap his arms around Starsky, and swing him back and forth, laughing.  "She's incredible, buddy."

"That's more like it," Hawkins said with satisfaction, turning away.  "If everyone wants to be in the photo, it's time to get down there."

When Hutch released Starsky, he was grinning widely.  "Come on, let's get down for our picture."

Starsky turned to the Dobey's.  "Come on, everybody.  You've got to be in the picture with us."  He tweaked one of Rosie's pigtails.  "Did you see that?"

"Yeah.  The race was over fast."

Starsky realized, "Seemed like it went on a long time to me."

"Man," Dobey said as they all started to move out of the box, "it makes you wonder just how good she might be."

Edith said, "I'm so happy for you guys."

Hutch noted, "Starsk is that who insisted we buy her, when we had the chance."

Starsky hugged Hutch, and they kept their arms loosely around each other as they made their way down to the lower floor of the grandstand, and then out to the apron that ran along the homestretch.

Huggy and Annette were near the winner's circle, Huggy grinning broadly.  "Man, she just blew those other horses away."

"Come on," Starsky prompted, "you and Annette have to be in the winner's circle photo with us."

The horses were being jogged back into the homestretch, nostrils flaring and sides heaving.

Hawkins led the way through the gate to the winner's circle that a security guard had opened.   He said over his shoulder, "You all stay here and get ready for the photo."  He then moved on to the track, where Blinks was waiting for Darla to jog up.

A young man with a camera around his neck came up to Starsky, since he was closest.  "You know how many photos you want?"

Starsky couldn't think.  He wanted to give plenty to the Dobeys, and Huggy, and mail some out to friends and relatives.  "Uh, a hundred."

The man's eyes lit up.  "All right!" he said, marking his program.

As Darla stopped by Blinks, just outside the winner's circle, Starsky could see that the jockey, Brad Byrd, was grinning broadly as he said a few words to Hawkins and then bent to pat Darla on the neck. 

Hawkins reached to remove Darla's red blinker hood, and Starsky felt that Darla looked even more magnificent that she ever had before, as she raised her head and studied the crowd .

The announcer came on the loud speaker.  "Ladies and gentlemen, here's your winner of the first race."  Blinks led Darla into the enclosure, while Hawkins stayed near, patting her.  She was halted before Starsky and Hutch, and all the others that stood on steps behind them.  "Deep Waters, a two-year-old filly bred in California by Mr. and Mrs. Mike Jeffords.  Owned by David Starsky and Kenneth Hutchinson.  Trained by Mike Hawkins, and ridden by Brad Byrd."

Huggy smacked Starsky on the back of the head.  "I bet you love hearing that."

Starsky glanced back at him and beamed, "Isn't this the most incredible thing?"

Darla tossed her head rapidly and Blinks soothed, "Easy, girl."

The photographer moved backward a few steps, and then knelt with his camera to his eye.

Starsky turned so that his sling was mostly hidden behind Hutch and wouldn't look so ostentatious.

A moment later, the photographer straightened, having obviously snapped a photo, and Byrd dismounted and began unsaddling Darla.

Hawkins said to Starsky and Hutch, "I'm going back to the barn for now.  I've got another running, but not until the ninth race."

Starsky said, "We'll be back there in a bit."

Byrd gave Darla a pat on her hindquarters, and then took his saddle to the weighing scales.

Blinks led Darla away.

Huggy said, "We'll be heading back to the Pits as soon as we cash our tickets.  Drinks are on me, if you want to stop by later."

"We might do that.  Thanks so much for coming out."  Starsky patted Huggy's back.  "Nice to meet you, Annette."

"Likewise," she said, squeezing his hand, and then Hutch's.  "This has been a blast."

Starsky said to Hutch, "I want to go back to the barn and watch her cool out."

"Yeah, me, too."  Hutch turned to the Dobeys.  "We're going to go to the barn area for a while.  Did you want to come, too, or hang out here?"

Dobey turned over the video camera to Hutch.  "I've got horses picked for the next few races, but we aren't going to stay all afternoon."

Hutch asked, "How about if we take Rosie back with us?  We've got carrots that she can feed the horses."

Rosie looked hopefully at her parents.

Edith said, "Sure, it'll be better for us to not have to watch her in a big crowd like this."

"We'll take good care of her," Starsky said.  "We'll bring her back here within a couple of hours."

"Sounds good," Dobey said.  Then he grinned broadly.  "I never thought standing in a winner's circle is something I'd ever do in my life."

"I know!" Starsky beamed.  "She's so incredible.  Winning is like... wow.  Oh, and  we've ordered plenty of photos for you guys, and we'll be getting copies made of the official track video, too, to go with the video you've taken."


Edith said, "Rosie, go with them, but do exactly what they and anybody else tells you."

"I will," she responded with enthusiasm.

Starsky took Rosie by the hand.  "Come on, off we go to see our super princess."


Hutch found it difficult to take his eyes off of Darla as she was being slowly led around by Blinks, a cooler sheet covering her.

She really was a magnificent specimen of horseflesh.  While she seemed more tired that she had after her first race, she had come out of this one without any apparent injuries.

Hawkins had introduced them to Mrs. Franklin, the wife portion of the couple which owned the horse that was running in the ninth race. She said she liked hanging around the barn area, pre-race, while her husband bet the races.  She'd taken charge of Rosie and was now introducing her to each horse in the barn, and showing her how to feed them carrots without getting her fingers nipped. 

"Man," Starsky said quietly from where he stood beside Hutch at one end of the shedrow, "this is, like, better than sex."

Hutch glanced at him with a grimace and deadpanned, "I'll remind you of that the next time you're horny."

Starsky wasn't phased.  "I mean, when she pulled away from that expensive horse like that... man, that was something."

Hutch chuckled softly and realized that his mouth hurt from grinning so much.  "Yeah, it was.  Sure makes up for last time, doesn't it?"

Starsky mused, "She's already earned us over ten thousand dollars."

Hutch corrected, "Closer to fifteen.  I noticed in the program that the purse for this race was a larger, I guess because it wasn't just for Cal-breds.   She earned over fourteen thousand for winning."

"Really?  Man, we haven't even touched that money we inherited from Steve Hanson.  I don't see how people can lose money in this sport."

Hutch grunted.  "Ask the owners of the horses that finished sixth and seventh and....   There were seven horses in that race, buddy, that didn't earn anything at all.  And the horses that were fourth and fifth didn't get much.  I can see how, if you have four or five horses, and none of them win for a month, an owner can get behind the financial eight ball in a big hurry.  Face it, buddy, we're two incredibly lucky stiffs to have been able to get our hands on Darla."

Hawkins had been on the telephone for a prolonged period, and now he emerged from his office and went to stand next to Starsky and Hutch.  "How's she doing?"

"She great," Starsky said.  "She seems pretty relaxed."  Darla now stopped beside a water bucket and took a sip.  "Man, as far as I'm concerned, she's the most gorgeous creature God ever put on this earth."

Hawkins chuckled.  "Everyone is on top of the world after a win."

Hutch asked, "What's next, Mike?"

"The next logical race is a non-winners of two races.  So, she'll be facing other fillies that have broken their maidens.  That'll be a big test, because today she beat a lot of wannabe racehorses.  Next time, she'll face horses that have proven they can win."

Starsky asked, "What did the jockey say?"

"He said he could have taken the lead from Pix Six whenever he wanted.  He just bided his time until they hit the stretch.  Then he just barely urged Darla, and she took off.  He didn't need his whip."

Hutch's permanent grin widened.  Then he noted, "I couldn't tell how she broke."

"She was a little tardy.  She just needed a few strides to settle and get her feet beneath her, and then she started passing horses."

Starsky said, "Man, those people who own Pix Six must be so disappointed."

Hawkins shook his head.  "Na, she didn't disgrace herself, even though she wound up fourth.  She had to use herself up, trying to hold Darla off early.  If Darla hadn't been in the race, Pix Six probably would have gone wire-to-wire.  She didn't have the conditioning that Darla has, so she was a little short, form-wise.  It's likely she'll win next time."

Despite feeling hesitant to prompt Hawkins to speculate, Hutch asked, "Just how good was this race, Mike?  I mean, how good do you think Darla is?"

Hawkins crossed his arms.  "Well, I've got good news and cautious news.  The cautious news is that, like I said, she beat a bunch of horses that probably aren't going to amount to much, except for Pix Six.  So, while it was great the way she pulled away with such authority, it doesn't necessarily mean much.  What you guys need to realize is that Darla grew into herself awfully fast for a youngster, especially for a filly on the large side.  Normally, the larger horses are, the slower they develop.  But, for whatever reason, she's hit a peak early in her two-year-old season.  So, you've got to take advantage of it while you can.  But it could mean that she's a flash-in-the-pan that won't amount to much as she ages.  I've seen lots of those.  It's too early to tell, though."

Hutch nodded with resignation as Starsky asked, "What's the good news?"

Hawkins grinned.  "Byrd told me that he feels Darla has another gear that hasn't been tapped yet.  So, we've yet to find out just what she's made of, when she's fully extended and has to put forth an all-out effort."

"So, when do you expect her to run again?"

"About three weeks."  Hawkins snapped his fingers.  "Oh, I don't know if you guys know this, but this meet ends next weekend.  Then the circuit moves to Del Mar, outside of San Diego, through the end of August.  So, she should next be running at Del Mar."

"Oh," Starsky said.  "We didn't realize that."

Hutch shook his head.  "No."  That would mean a three-hour drive to get to the track.

"Yep," Hawkins said, "All the horses will be shipping down to Del Mar after next weekend.  It's a more beautiful track than Hollywood.  It has more of a vacation atmosphere."  Then he asked, "Did you guys order enough photos to include me and Blinks and the jock?"

Starsky nodded.  "Yeah, I told the photographer a hundred copies."

Hutch's stomach clenched.  "What?"

Starsky shrugged.  "I didn't know how many the Dobeys would want... or Huggy...."

"Starsky, those photos are eight dollars a piece.  You just spent eight hundred dollars on probably four times the number of photos we need."

"We can afford it."

Hawkins chuckled, and then said, "He'll surely give you a break on the price for that many.  In fact, I bet if you ask for a larger one, say a 24x30 so you can display it in your living room, he'd probably throw it in for nothing."

"We'll do that," Hutch said firmly.

Darla was approaching them on her circular walk, and Hawkins went up to her.  "How's she doing, Blinks?"

Blinks halted her, and said something so softly, Hutch couldn't hear.  Hawkins then put his hand near her nostrils.  He started rolling back the cooler.  After it was pulled off Darla, he draped it over his arm.  He then looked Darla over, and bent to run his hand along each foreleg.  After he straightened, he said, "Looks like she came out of it well."

Starsky and Hutch approached, Hutch reaching to stroke her neck.  He was amazed, as he always was, how sleek and healthy her coat felt.

Starsky quickly moved to her other side, patting her shoulder.  "You're the most fantastic thing ever."  Then, to Hawkins,  "Can she have a carrot?"


Starsky looked over his shoulder.  "Hey, Rosie?  You have any carrots left for Darla?"

Rosie looked up from where she was stroking the muzzle of a horse.  Mrs. Franklin said, "We saved a couple."  They began to approach.

Hutch asked Rosie, "You like being with the horses?"

"Yeah!"  she gushed. 

Starsky said, "How about giving our superstar a carrot?"

Rosie stood in front of Darla and held out a carrot.  Darla took it, and Mrs. Franklin said, "That's right, there you go," as Rosie opened her hand while the carrot disappeared, so Darla couldn't accidently nip her fingers.  Rosie looked in the bag.  "There's one left."  She took it out.

Starsky's kissed Darla's cheek as the second carrot was gobbled down.  "You are the most gorgeous thing."

Hutch would have been embarrassed, if he hadn't felt likewise.  But he did grumble, "Don't start making out with her in front of people."

They all laughed.

Rosie quickly stepped back as Darla reached her neck out for a third, but the bag was empty.

Hawkins said to Blinks, "Into her stall she goes."

Darla was led away.


Hutch sighed as he pulled the bed covers over Starsky's already-dozing form, which was still dressed in underwear.  They had gone to Huggy's and stayed a few hours, Starsky eager to get inebriated in the name of celebration.  Hutch had nursed his three beers much more slowly, knowing he was going to have to drive them home.  Starsky was swaying and muttering happily as Hutch put him to bed, and now he already seemed to have fallen deeply asleep.

Hutch placed a bottle of aspirin and a glass of water on the nightstand, in anticipation of a hangover whenever Starsky happened to wake up.

Hutch himself felt quite happily worn out, but he wasn't ready for bed.  He watched Starsky's sleeping form and saw yet again, in his mind's eye, Darla pulling away to win with such dominating force.

None of this would have happened, had it not been for Starsky.  Most specifically, his passion for wanting Darla, from the moment he met her.

Hutch felt a smile at his mouth as he moved down the hall to the kitchen.  He opened the refrigerator and downed a few swallows from a carton of orange juice.  He then moved to the living room and plopped down on the sofa, groaning loudly as he pulled off his boots.

He wriggled toes appreciatively and looked around the living room.  It was satisfying seeing so many plants set about.  He and Starsky both had always loved their house, but now Hutch felt it had a much more "homey" feel, due to the plants that had been placed throughout.

Hutch's eyes then fell on the computer.  Earlier, before heading to the track, Starsky had decided he wanted to start a new chapter, but it had been slow and frustrating going, as he pecked at the keys awkwardly, thanks to his cast.  He hadn't gotten very far before it was time to leave for Darla's race.

Hutch went over to the computer now and saw that it was still on.  He sat down and read the few paragraphs Starsky had typed, which had a lot of typographical errors.

Hutch began to push some keys, experimenting with how they worked differently from a typewriter.  After a few moments, he was able to move the cursor down some spaces so that he was looking at a blank page.  He then scrolled upward, making sure that nothing Starsky had written had been erased.

Then he moved the cursor back down to where the screen was blank.

He began typing.




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